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Writing Feature Stories: A Journalism and Language Arts Unit Work Sample For grades 9-12, Glencoe High School Hillsboro, Oregon, School District 1J

By Charity Thompson, M.Ed. Candidate Portland State University Graduate Teacher Education Program Winter 2011


Table of Contents Section I: Introduction and Context ....................................................................................................................... 3-11 Section II: Unit Goals & Standards ..........................................................................................................................12-18 Section III: Instructional Plans and Materials .............................................................................................. 19-70

Lesson 1: What is a Feature Story? .................................................................................................................... 19-22

Assessment: Feature Writing Unit Pre-Test ........................................................................................ 23

Student Sample Inserts: Feature Writing Pre-Tests ....................................... (Non-electronic)

Lesson 2: Interviews & Observation, Part 1 ............................................................................................... 24-26

Lesson 3: Interviews & Observation, Part 2 ............................................................................................... 28-30

Lesson 4: From Notes to Story, Part 1 ........................................................................................................... 32-35

Lesson 5: From Notes to Story, Part 2 ........................................................................................................... 36-39

Lesson Material: Feature Story: "Central District Woman..." ........................................... 40-43

Lesson Material: Central Question Worksheet.................................................................................. 44

Lesson 6: From Notes to Story, Part 3 ........................................................................................................... 45-49

Lesson Material: Feature Story Example: "A Recipe for Artisan Flavor" ............................... 52-53

Lesson 7: From Notes to Story, Part 4 ........................................................................................................... 54-57

Lesson Material: Updated Parts of a Feature Story Outline ..................................................... 58

Lesson Material: Tips for Journalistic Style ........................................................................................ 59

Assessment: Exit Slip ........................................................................................................................................ 60

Lesson 8: Finishing Touches .............................................................................................................................. 61-62

Lesson 9: What Have We Learned? Unit Review and Test ................................................................ 65-68

Assessment: Feature Writing Unit Test .......................................................................................... 69-70

Student Sample Inserts: Feature Writing Post-Tests ..................................... (Non-electronic)

Lesson Material: Informative and Descriptive Detail Examples............................................. 27 Student Sample: Descriptive Detail Writing ........................................................................................ 31

Lesson Material: Parts of a Feature Story Outline & Checklist......................................... 50-51

Lesson Material: Feature Writing Unit Review ........................................................................... 63-64

Section IV: Data on Learning Gains .................................................................................................................... 71-76 Section V: Interpretation of Learning Gains ................................................................................................. 77-83

Student Sample Inserts: Feature Stories & Accompanying Materials ............ (Non-electronic) Section VI: Uses of Data ................................................................................................................................................ 84-86 Section VII: Reflection on Teaching the Unit ................................................................................................ 87-98

Personal Writing Insert ..................................................................................................................................... 99-100 Section VIII: Attention to Literacy .................................................................................................................... 101-102



Writing Feature Stories: Introduction and Context


Work Sample Introduction

During my winter term field

Hillsboro School District 1J Demographic Data 2009-2010

City of Hillsboro Demographics








Asian/Pacific Islander


High School in Hillsboro, Oregon.




The work sample provided here


Native American





experience, I was assigned to work with Juanita Reiter, a language arts and journalism teacher at Glencoe

covers the feature writing unit I prepared for her journalism class.

Figure I.1

The unit took place throughout the month of January in nine class sessions of about ninety minutes each.

Juanita Reiter and I agreed that during the winter term I would be present in her

classroom Monday through Friday from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm, and that I would take over teaching her journalism class while collaborating with her on advising the student newspaper staff (which meets in class regularly and after school). For her three sophomore language arts classes, my role was to observe her teaching and contribute to class discussions and activities as necessary and appropriate. School and community description

Glencoe High School lies on the rural edge of Hillsboro, Oregon, which had a reported

population of 90,380 in 2009 -- about seventeen percent of the population within Washington County. Within Hillsboro, about six percent of the population is between the ages of fifteen and nineteen, and 1,670 of Hillsboro’s teenagers attend Glencoe.


Within Hillsboro School District 1J, the two largest student populations are Caucasian, at

fifty-three percent, Hispanic/Latino, at thirty-two percent. Recent statistics show that the student population of Hillsboro School District 1J has thirteen percent fewer Caucasians than the general city population (See Figure I.1), revealing that the district serves a population that is forty-six percent minority ethnic groups. Most notably, this district’s student population is thirty-two percent Hispanic/Latino, compared to the city’s Hispanic/Latino population of twentyone percent. Forty-seven percent of the district’s students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, possibly reflecting Hillsboro’s2010 unemployment rate of eight percent.

The school district has an average class size of twenty-six students and budgeted $6,254

per student during the 2004-2005 school year (more current numbers were not available). Effective for the 2010-2011 school year, the school district instituted a new balanced grading scale (see Figure I.2) within all its schools as an effort to provide an “ accurate and reliable indication of student knowledge and skills,” according to the district’s website. Under the sample balanced scale shown in Figure I. 2, “if a

Sample Balanced Grading Scale A B C D F

90 - 100 80 - 90 70 - 80 60 - 70 50 - 60

Traditional Grading Scale A B C D F

90 - 100 80 - 89 70 - 79 60 - 69 0 - 59 Figure I.2

student receives a forty-five percent on an assignment, that is a failing grade -- their grade in the teacher’s grade book would be a 50, as that is the lowest score on the scale,” according to the district. This grading scale was applied when determining formative and summative assessment scores for the unit within this work sample.

Glencoe High School has seventy-five classrooms serving 1,670 students between ninth

and twelfth grades. The school was built in 1980 to relieve crowding at Hillsboro High School,


SAT Scores




Glencoe High School




OR State Average

523 (+3.56%)

529 (+3.93%)

503 (+2.03%)

USA National Average

503 (-0.4%)

518 (+1.77%)

497 (+0.81%) Figure I.3

which is among Hillsboro School District 1J’s three other high schools. The school’s average scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test generally rank three percent below the Oregon state average and about one percent below the United States national average. (See Figure I.3) Despite this, Glencoe was recently one of six large high schools in the state to receive an Exceptional ranking on the Oregon Report Card. The school offers a plethora of elective options, including eleven advanced placement courses for seniors and juniors. Students have access to a full workshop and curriculum for metal and woodworking, as well as to engineering courses that are part of the nationally recognized Project Lead the Way. The school is also recognized for its visual and performing arts program, which includes marching band, choral work, theatre, sculpture, photography, graphic design and cartooning. The school has a strong athletics department and its girls’ softball team was the Oregon state champion in 2010. Classroom description and resources

The classroom has eighteen tables that can seat two students each, meaning this class

could theoretically hold 36 students. The room has three large bulletin boards, a document camera on a rolling cart (the camera also connects to the teacher’s computer), a computer with speakers and a printer for the teacher, and six medium-sized cabinets with a counter between them. On one bulletin board is a display called “Somewhere Over the Reading Rainbow” created


by my cooperating teacher, who teaches sophomore English and Journalism while advising the student newspaper staff. On another bulletin board a posters related to Algebra, “Star Trek� and Albert Einstein, posted by the math teacher who works in this room during the first period of each day. Adjacent to the classroom is a medium-sized office reserved for student newspaper

planning activities and storage. Adjacent to that office is a classroom that also serves as a computer lab. The lab has about 30 computers and a printer available for student use, along with a digital scanner, which was purchased with savings from the student newspaper budget. The computers have InDesign software for journalism students to use in designing their newspaper pages, and some have Photoshop. The computers also have software for students who attend engineering, computer programming and math classes in this room. The lab is available for use by journalism students and newspaper staff every day during third period and after school, and is an invaluable resource that is central to the operations of the student newspaper. The classroom is generally comfortable, but its heating and air conditioning system

operates at extreme temperatures -- typically changing drastically every ten minutes -- and this can be distracting for students. Journalism course description

At Glencoe High School, journalism is an elective course that students can take for

either one or two semesters. The learning goals of this course meet Oregon state educational standards in the areas of language arts and art, and the course is a prerequisite for participation on Glencoe’s student newspaper staff. Students are allowed to drop the class during second semester, but are not allowed to add the class during second semester, as the


work completed in first semester is essential to understanding tasks to be completed in second semester.

The first semester of this course covers basic journalistic principles and style with

particular emphasis on writing news briefs. During this time, students who excel in their work have the opportunity to be published in the student newspaper, The Crimson Times. In the latter part of first semester, in which I taught, students branch out from writing brief news stories and into writing personality profile feature stories. The first semester ends with completion of the first personality profile assignment. Those assigned stories are typically not published in the student newspaper.

The second semester begins with students gearing up to commit to journalism at a

higher level by writing feature stories for publication in the student newspaper, and also by learning the essentials of newspaper page design. In some way or another, the entire second semester of this course is dedicated to preparing students for those two activities. The feature story-writing lessons are similar to those from the previous semester, though more in-depth with time for thoughtful research and interviews, plus plenty of time for careful crafting and editing of stories. The page design lessons involve learning aesthetic elements of design and the functional parts of a newspaper page by drafting page designs by hand as well as on InDesign, which is industry standard software for page designers. Near the end of second semester, students will have completed their final feature stories and page designs and will see them published in The Crimson Times.

For purposes of this work sample description, I will examine the process and results of

the feature writing unit I prepared for the end of the first semester of this journalism course. Journalism students


Journalism students

During my time with the journalism students this winter, the class included twenty

students, from grades nine to twelve. The class population included thirteen girls and seven boys, with two Asian students, two Hispanic students, eleven Caucasian students, two students of Middle Eastern descent, and two students of mixed ethnicity. Most students in the class were juniors, with a total of seven, though the group also included five sophomores, two seniors and one freshman. The class included two students on Individual Education Plans. Another student was struggling with this class because she was preparing to move to another state. Two students were taking the course for the second time and performed fairly well, though each struggled to meet deadlines and remain on task, and lost points as a result. One student on the roster never attended the class during the period of this work sample, and another attended only twice, and failed to turn in any assignments other than the pre-assessment.

As a whole, this group of students exhibited cooperative behavior and they were often

interested in working quietly on their own more than in groups. Because this group of students are often slow to respond in large-group discussions, Juanita Reiter keeps a cup of popsicle sticks on her desk with each student’s name on a stick. When students fail to answer questions for the large group, she draws a name from the cup, and students respond positively to this strategy. At her advice, I took on the popsicle stick strategy and also added plenty of pair sharing opportunities to warm students up for large-group discussions. This proved successful

Final Feature Story Packet: Total Points Possible Informative, Clear Final Paper Packet Story Descriptive Written Central Journalistic Score Organization Development Details Mechanics Idea Conventions 35







Extra Credit 10 Figure I.4


and I observed students developing an atmosphere that was gradually more conducive to sharing and collaboration as a team. Feature Writing Unit Assessment Methods

As a means for getting to know this group of students and their familiarity with

journalistic feature stories, I assigned a pre-assessment on the first day of the unit. The assessment included three true-or-false questions and three multiple choice questions along with a request for written examples of informative and descriptive detail, and a request for a written description of the plans each student had made for the upcoming feature story assignment. Especially because I was coming into the class the middle of the school year, I found the pre-assessment to be quite a valuable tool. It told me in clear terms what my students did and did not understand about the unit goals I had created for them. Along with this, I learned that prior to my work with these students, they had learned about practicing interviews and composing news briefs, but had not practiced writing longer-form news or feature stories. With this unit, we were heading into somewhat unfamiliar territory.

Throughout the month-long unit, I offered formative assessments to check students’

progress with their feature stories as well as to check their understanding of journalistic concepts presented in their lessons. Formative assessment primarily took place through daily free writing assignments with prompts that had clear connections to current lessons or upcoming assignments. I also conducted formative assessments through worksheets that demonstrated students’ organization of plans and ideas for their feature stories, as well as with one set of exit slips and checklists to help keep students on track throughout the process. Formative assessment also occurred in each class session through group discussion and student comments.


My summative assessments included a post-test that was similar to the pre-test in

content, though it was intended to provide a higher challenge level, and a packet that contained each student’s final feature story and accompanying drafts, worksheets and interview notes (Figure I.4). On the post-test I asked students to identify examples of specific writing conventions from the final drafts of their own stories.

The key learning objectives for this unit were for students to be able to demonstrate

understanding of the difference between hard news and soft news, to create feature stories related to their school, to evaluate potential feature story subject choices, to identify a story’s essential question, to plan and conduct interviews, and to recognize and write descriptive details and informative details within their journalistic work.



Writing Feature Stories: Unit Goals & Standards


Unit Purpose, Rationale and Objectives

Students are taking this course in journalism as a prerequisite to joining the school’s

newspaper staff during the following school year. Requirements for the journalism course include learning to interview people for stories, drafting and finalizing news briefs and stories, and learning to write feature stories that meet criteria for publication in the school newspaper’s final issue of the year.

This unit was designed to prepare students to research and draft personality profile

feature stories before they begin work on a new set of stories that will be published at the end of the school year. In designing this unit, I used the central question of “How do I help someone tell their story clearly and truthfully?” and I followed approach to feature writing that has been used by my cooperating teacher during the last several years. As such, this unit includes the following learning goals (see also Figure II.1): • Generate ideas for feature story possibilities that have a clear connection to Glencoe High School • Choose individuals to feature in their feature stories as primary sources • Identify two or three people to be interviewed as secondary sources • Arranging interviews, conducting background research and preparing interview questions • Conducting one-on-one interviews in order to obtain information and observations for use within a feature story • Completing at least three drafts of a feature story, working toward the quality standards set forth by the student newspaper, The Crimson Times.

In order to work toward these goals, I scaffolded student’s work by teaching the

following concepts:


• The difference between “hard news” and “soft news” (typically feature stories and personality profiles are categorized as soft news) • The parts and purposes of feature stories • The difference between informative detail and descriptive detail (most hard news stories rely primarily on informative detail, while feature stories combine informative with descriptive) • Artful observation, the practice of attuning yourself to your surroundings and companions in order to make connections between concrete events and abstract ideas, which can be used in creative works such as a journalistic feature story • Journalistic interviewing strategies • Identifying a story’s essential or central question at different points of the planning and drafting process • Different structures used in personality profile feature stories • Identifying ways to connect a feature story to a current issue or trend or to a recent event

Though it wasn’t traditionally part of my cooperating teacher’s feature unit design, I

chose to add two components to this unit which I believe are important to teaching young journalists -- the regular use of web technologies and discussion of current news events on local, national and global levels. I found that these two components easily worked hand-inhand, as much of today’s news is produced and disseminated through web technologies.

I began working with these components right off the bat by showing students a stellar

example of a personality profile -- Time magazine’s extensive feature on Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, who the magazine named Person of the Year for 2011. Students also regularly viewed and listened to news video and audio clips online as writing prompts,


including clips that featured or were produced by high school students from other schools. We also used the website to help them identify central themes in our discussions and their story drafts. I made use of a document camera on a daily basis in order to display printed materials as well as to share the aforementioned web-based media.

As for current events, daily writing prompts were based on stories or images from

recent news. Students were asked to listen to each story, respond to it in writing, share their thoughts in pairs and then to share their thoughts with the whole group. These individual reflections and group discussions were rich from the start, but their depth increased throughout the duration of the unit, especially as students became more familiar with current issues in the news and took to following news events on their own.

An activity that led to particularly rich writing and discussion happened during our first

class period held after Arizona Senator Gabrielle Giffords was shot at a public event. Before mentioning the news event, I used a document camera connected to a computer to show students an image of three people hugging at the scene of the crime. I asked students to share some of their descriptions with the group, and then I shared a news story about the shooting from the Washington Post, which utilized elements of feature writing, such as use of descriptive detail and artful observation. In our group discussion it was clear that students’ observations of the news photo were similar to those of the story from the Washington Post, even though their written responses happened we read the news story. This experience showed me that students were steadily progressing toward understanding the unit’s key concepts of tuning in with current events and understanding informative and descriptive detail, artful observation, and central questions or ideas.


Unit Name: Feature Writing

Grade Levels: 9-12

Content Area(s): Journalism, Language Arts

Learning Objectives: Students will... * Demonstrate understanding of the difference between hard news and soft news * Demonstrate understanding of the parts and purposes of feature stories * Brainstorm and draft personality profile feature stories about individuals related to their school * Evaluate feature story subject choices * Identify a feature story’s essential question * Plan and conduct one-on-one interviews * Recognize and write descriptive details and informative details through observation Key Content Questions: * What is the difference between a news story and a feature story? * What is an essential question? (If you could only ask one interview question, what would it be?) * How do you prioritize interview questions? * How do you plan and arrange for story interviews? * What is the difference between informative and descriptive detail? * Why is drafting important in feature stories?

Duration: 9 class periods

90 minutes each

Essential Question: How do I help someone tell their story clearly and truthfully? Prior Knowledge: * Basic working knowledge of journalistic style, practices and principles * Ability to read and write at or near grade level Standards (See attached list) * EL.HS.RE.01-04, 06, 11, 19, 25, 33 * EL.HS.WR.01-03, 05-06, 08-12, 14, 17-19, 27, 28, 31 * EL.HS.SL.03

Materials & Technology: * Time magazine’s 2010 Person of the Year issue * A story from David Johnson’s “Everyone Has a Story” column in the Lewiston Tribune * Sample feature stories articles from student and city newspapers * Web video and audio news clips, or photos related to writing prompts * Document camera that connects to computer with internet connectivity, speakers * Access to computer lab and printer for student use * Access to Figure II.1


Figure II.2 Unit Standards, Oregon Language Arts Reading * EL.HS.RE.01 Read at an independent and instructional reading level appropriate to grade level. * EL.HS.RE.02 Listen to, read, and understand a wide variety of informational and narrative text, including classic and contemporary literature, poetry, magazines, newspapers, reference materials, and online information. * EL.HS.RE.03 Make connections to text, within text, and among texts across the subject areas. * EL.HS.RE.04 Demonstrate listening comprehension of more complex text through class and/ or small group interpretive discussions across the subject areas. * EL.HS.RE.06 Understand and draw upon a variety of comprehension strategies as needed-rereading, self-correcting, summarizing, class and group discussions, generating and responding to essential questions, making predictions, and comparing information from several sources. * EL.HS.RE.11 Identify and use the literal and figurative meanings of words and phrases. * EL.HS.RE.19 Identify and/or summarize sequence of events, main ideas, facts, supporting details, and opinions in informational and practical selections. * EL.HS.RE.25 Infer the main idea when it is not explicitly stated, and support with evidence from the text. * EL.HS.RE.33 Generate relevant questions about readings on issues that can be researched. Speaking and Listening * EL.HS.SL.03 Choose logical patterns of organization (e.g., chronological, topical, cause-and effect) to inform and to persuade, by seeking agreement or action, or uniting audiences behind a common belief or cause. Writing * EL.HS.WR.01 Use a variety of strategies to prepare for writing, such as brainstorming, making lists, mapping, outlining, grouping related ideas, using graphic organizers, and taking notes. * EL.HS.WR.02 Discuss ideas for writing with classmates, teachers, and other writers, and develop drafts alone and collaboratively. * EL.HS.WR.03 Identify audience and purpose. * EL.HS.WR.05 Use the writing process--prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing successive versions. Continued on following page


Unit Standards, Oregon Language Arts * EL.HS.WR.06 Focus on a central idea, excluding loosely related, extraneous, and repetitious information. * EL.HS.WR.08 Revise drafts to improve the logic and coherence of the organization and controlling idea, the precision of word choice, and the tone--by taking into consideration the audience, purpose, and formality of the context. * EL.HS.WR.09 Edit and proofread one's own writing, as well as that of others, using the writing conventions, and, for example, an editing checklist or list of rules with specific examples of corrections of specific errors. * EL.HS.WR.10 Establish a coherent and clearly supported thesis that engages the reader, conveys a clear and distinctive perspective on the subject, maintains a consistent tone and focus throughout the piece of writing, and ends with a well supported conclusion. * EL.HS.WR.11 Create an organizational structure that logically and effectively presents information using transitional elements that unify paragraphs and the work as a whole. * EL.HS.WR.12 Use precise language, action verbs, sensory details, and appropriate modifiers. * EL.HS.WR.14 Produce writing that shows accurate spelling. * EL.HS.WR.17 Demonstrate an understanding of proper English usage, including the consistent use of verb tenses and forms. * EL.HS.WR.18 Use conventions of punctuation correctly, including semicolons, colons, ellipses, hyphens and dashes. * EL.HS.WR.19 Use correct capitalization. * EL.HS.WR.27 Use clear research questions and suitable research sources, including the library, electronic media, and personal interviews, to gather and present evidence from primary and secondary print or Internet sources. * EL.HS.WR.28 Use effective note-taking techniques to ensure appropriate documentation of quoted as well as paraphrased material. * EL.HS.WR.31 Integrate quotations and citations into a written text while maintaining the flow of ideas. Figure II.2, contd.



Writing Feature Stories: Instructional Plans, Reflections & Materials



TUESDAY, JAN. 4, 2011 Concept: What is a feature story? State Standards: • EL.HS.RE.01, 02, 04, 11, 25 • EL.HS.WR.02, 03, 12, 14, 17, 18, 19 Learning Objectives: Students will... • Demonstrate understanding of the difference between hard news and soft news • Demonstrate understanding of the parts and purposes of feature stories • Evaluate feature story subject choices Materials & Technology • Document camera • Feature story samples from Time magazine, “Everyone Has a Story” column, and Crimson Times Hook: Getting to know your student teacher (10 min.) • What is your name? What is one goal you’d like to accomplish during your lifetime? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten? Activities (ATL: Attention to Literacy) • Feature Writing Pre-test • (ATL) Look at feature story excerpts from Time magazine, “Everyone has a Story” column and Crimson times. Consider techniques used in lead, subject choice, descriptive details.


• Pair share, then group discussion of each story segment (see Assessment) • Due Jan. 6 or today for bonus: Turn in top 1-2 feature subject choices related to GHS, not a close friend, plus a list of 3 people who know your feature subject well, include contact information Homework • Due Jan. 6: Turn in top 1-2 feature subject choices related to GHS, not a close friend, plus a list of 3 people who know your feature subject well, include contact information • Schedule interviews Assessment • Pretest • Discuss the projects they are working on. Ask them to list or share out loud the main questions they have about the themes of their projects. When they’re interviewing people, what is the main thing they want to know or the main topic they want to discuss? • Lists meeting criteria Reflection

Overall, it went really well! We had just enough time with a little breathing room at the

end. Spent about 20 minutes going over assignment due dates. Students were more engaged than I expected, even though I felt like we needed a bit more activity. One student said, “You did good because you know what you’re talking about.”

The “Getting to Know You” activity was great -- students were proud to present

themselves, and it helped me remember their names.

The pre-test was invaluable, and my CT said it addressed important elements of the



We didn’t talk much about their stories, and no one turned in contact lists early, so it’s

likely they’re just getting started thinking about this project. CT recommended giving them a way to engage with info I presented feature types. I’ll add a review of this to next lesson, ask them to look at newspapers and write down and share examples of each feature type.


Name: ________________________

Date: _____________

Feature Writing Unit Pre-Test Circle the answer that you believe is most correct. 1. True or false: Breaking news is often reported in feature stories. 2. True or false: A hard news story must always include a hard news lead paragraph. 3. True or false: A feature story can be short 4. The purpose of feature stories is to: a. Explain events that affect the news b. Give a picture of someone’s life and personality c. Examine trends d. All of the above 5. Which is an example of a hard news story subject? a. A Glencoe student who struggles with a chronic illness b. An album review c. Five large scholarships awarded to Glencoe seniors this week d. Ongoing struggles of homeless teenagers 6. Which is an example of a soft news story subject? a. A fire that burned down a pizza shop last night b. Budget cuts for Glencoe’s Lacrosse team c. The pizza maker whose shop burned down and her role in the community d. Results of a swimming tournament 7. Write a sentence about this classroom that provides informative details:

8. Write a sentence about this classroom that provides descriptive details:

On the back of this page, please write a couple of sentences explaining your ideas for your upcoming feature story.



THURSDAY, JAN. 6, 2011 Concept: Interviews & Observation, Part 1 State Standards: • EL.HS.RE.01, 02, 03, 04, 06, 11, 25 • EL.HS.WR.01, 02, 03, 06, 10 Learning Objectives: Students will... • Demonstrate understanding of the difference between hard news and soft news • Demonstrate understanding of the parts and purposes of feature stories • Prepare for one-on-one interviews • Recognize descriptive details and informative details Materials & Technology • Document camera, internet connectivity and speakers Hook: Review Hard News, Soft News, and Feature Story Types. • Pass out copies of newspapers & magazines, use them to find examples. Write down the headline for each example, discuss in pairs, then as group, then turn in lists. Activities (ATL: Attention to Literacy) • Point out project calendar on the wall with reminder of due dates. • (ATL) Observation Intro: Show example of “tell” writing & “show” writing (see samples). Talk about their differences & uses. Then show excerpt from TIME story, pair share what details stand out, then share w/group.


• Place photo on document camera. Gather & write down visual information from this image, plus questions you would like to ask the person in the photo. Pair share, then group share. • Bring up video on document camera, play twice. Gather & write down visual information, plus questions you would like to ask the video subject. Group share, create a Wordle from discussion. • SHIFT GEARS INTO INTERVIEWING INTRODUCTION • Discussion: A man on the bus asked me, “So what’s your story?” Why didn’t he succeed in getting me to talk? • What is an Essential Question? (If you could only ask one question for this story, what would it be?) • Key elements of interviewing: Establish trust, generate answers with information, generate personal responses • Brainstorm a list of interview questions for your own feature story. Write down as many questions as you can think of in 2 minutes. • Look at your list of questions. Put an “I” next to those that will lead to information, put and ‘R” next to those that will lead to a personal response. Number your questions in order of importance. If possible, identify an Essential Question. Finish at home, turn in Jan. 10. • Turn in today: FINAL top 1-2 feature subject choices, list of 3 people who know your subject well (& contact info) and interview date(s) Homework • Finish prioritizing questions & prepare for first interview • Finish scheduling interviews, conduct first interview • Due dates: Question list Jan. 10, First interview & notes Jan. 12, first draft Jan. 19


Assessment • Feature story type headline list • Group discussion and questions about examples given • Descriptive notes for photo and video • Subject lists meeting criteria • Question lists and notes • Group discussion Reflection

This lesson went even better than the first! I know this because we had a LOT of

activities to get through and we finished all of them with the students mostly on task from start to finish. I kept looking up to gauge their interest and they were generally alert and active. The group discussions were lively and genuine, especially because I asked them to pair share before group share and I asked more specific questions related to lesson objectives. At my CT’s advice, when a student gave a decent answer that was vague, I asked for examples. The discussion grew and grew from this. I think the students enjoyed the use of media and unusual examples. Several students turned in their story source lists late.


Feature Writing Unit Examples of creating descriptive detail by observing things you see Based on the page 48 photo in Time magazine’s Person of the Year 2010 issue Tell writing (informative details): Mark Zuckerberg, a high school fencing star, gives a lesson to the son of Sheryl Sandberg, who works with Zuckerberg as chief operating officer of Facebook. The boy wore protective fencing gear while Zuckerberg wore jeans and a sweatshirt. The joust took place during a November afternoon in Zuckerberg’s backyard, which includes a concrete patio with circular steps leading from his stucco house. Show writing (descriptive details, also known as artful observation): He knew he was doomed to lose. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was helpless in flimsy jeans and a sweatshirt when a tiny fencer cornered Zuckerberg in his own backyard. The child was suited in complete protective fencing gear and approached Zuckerberg at once with seriousness and playfulness as he jabbed the billionaire with his sword, his young imagination somewhere between Star Wars and a pirate movie.



MONDAY, JAN. 10, 2011 Concept: Interviews and Observation, Part 2 State Standards: • EL.HS.RE.02, 03, 04, 06, 11, 19 • EL.HS.WR.02, 06, 10, 11 • EL.HS.SL.03 Learning Objectives: Students will... • Demonstrate understanding of the difference between hard news and soft news • Prepare for one-on-one interviews • Recognize and write descriptive details and informative details through observation Materials & Technology • Thought-provoking image of an unknown person. The image should ideally be connected to a current news story, though the people and scene should not be immediately recognizable. (In this case, I used an image of a family grieving at the scene of this weekend’s shooting in Arizona.) • Document camera • Washington Post news story about Arizona shooting that uses feature writing style • Computer with internet access and connectivity to document camera • Image previously used in descriptive freewrite Hook


• Place a new image on the document camera, do a freewrite of details you observe in the image. (5 min.) • After the freewrite, students may share some of their observations. • Reveal where this photo is from and find out what students know about the news event related to the image. • Show a news story related to the image. Read it aloud, then examine as a group the purpose of the writer’s choice for descriptive details. (Reveal key characters and their relationships to each other.) Activities (ATL: Attention to Literacy) • (ATL) Go over their anonymous descriptive writing pieces from Post Secret and Homeless video on document camera. Look at what works best. • Practice interviews in pairs. • 1 - Where did you grow up and what was it like? (Note informative details.) • 2 - How did that place influence who you are now? (Note personal response details.) • 3 - What old stuff do you keep and why? (Note informative and personal response details.) • Report to group on interviews Homework Due Jan. 12: Complete first interview and bring hand-written notes. Prepare to type notes in our next class and turn them into paragraphs for your first draft. Schedule your second interview, notes are due Jan. 14. Assessment • Discuss results of freewrite. What details stood out most? What questions were most common? If possible, create a Wordle image based on this discussion.


• Interview question solicits a response that includes information, includes a genuine personal response and relates to the project’s essential question. Reflection

This weekend’s shooting provided some good opportunities for discussion in this class,

and it made clear to me that I should build in ways for students to follow and respond to current news stories on a regular basis. In line with that, I also realized that I would like to have them doing free writing on a regular basis, and free writes in response to current news stories (or videos or images) seems like the perfect way to meet these goals while giving me a way to continually check in with them. I don’t know if this would be feasible if I had a larger classload, but it is working for now.


• • •

• •

• • •

Samples of students’ descriptive detail writing Based on a news photo at the site of Sen. Giffords’ shooting: Comforting each other, holding each other tightly. Scene of an accident? The people hugging the girl look like they’re happy to see her. ... I think of an airport when I see this. At first I thought that the people were being reunited, but after observing them more closely, they actually look sad. The teenage girl seems to be scared or worried, and the man also looks sad, contributing to why I think that something negative happened. Family or friends in the city around people, haven’t seen each other in a long time. ... Man looks touched and concentrated. Daughter’s eyes look wet. Dad’s face is wet. Someone in the background is taking a video or photo. They are all hugging really firmly like they haven’t been together in a long time, and the dad hugged both of them because he couldn’t wait. Guy in the back has a microphone and ear speaker like they are on the news staff. They all have dark colors on. Counseling group hug, sad undertone, caring and compassionate people, tough times, deep moment. The man on the far right in the background seems to have some type of official pass or credentials around his neck. Young girl, maybe teenager? Mood: emotional, sad. Setting/place: Indoors. Maybe they are experiencing a time of hardship or relief? Young girl crying? Can’t exactly tell, faces of all three people are hidden, however you can sense high emotion. Arms outstretched loosely. Faces hidden in sadness (maybe). Fingers curled and seem shaky. Nobody seems to about them in the background so maybe this is a happy huddle. All have dark hair. Maybe they’re related? Reuniting? Just found out about a tragic accident? The guy is kind of on the outside so the girls started hugging first. Three people, huddled together in what looks to be hallway. A young woman and man hold tightly onto a third figure, almost desperately clinging to this person. The young man and woman seem close in age, maybe brother and sister? The man’s head rests against the third figure’s in what could be relief or grief, or a combination of both. People go on about their business around them, not seeming to notice anything unusual. Having been separated for months and finally reunited, they embrace tightly. Close to tears that overflow with the rush of emotions coursing through them. Above all the feeling of the words silently conveyed I’m never letting go again. Surrounded by people they see no one but each other. They are all safe and they are together. A beard full of hair just short enough to not come down off his face. Hair is shaggy and comes to the front of his head as if a unicorn’s horn is about to burst straight out. He has his strong arms around 2 women and his head down as if he had the whole world in his hands. The younger woman has her head on the older women’s shoulder looking a combination of worried and confused. The two young adults hugged the middle aged woman. The girl with Kate Middleton hair rested her cheek on the woman’s shoulder, glancing away with the glimmer of a tear in her eye. The man wrapped his arms around both women, offering a protective embrace, but he buried his face into the woman’s hair. No one face is fully seen -- this moment is for them.



WEDNESDAY, JAN. 12, 2011, Reserved time in Computer Lab Concept: From notes to story State Standards: • EL.HS.RE.01, 02, 03, 04, 25, 33 • EL.HS.WR.02, 05, 06, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 14, 17, 18, 19, 27 Learning Objectives: Students will... • Demonstrate understanding of the parts and purposes of feature stories • Draft personality profile feature stories about individuals related to their school • Identify a feature story’s essential question • Recognize and write descriptive details and informative details through observation Materials & Technology • Computer lab for student use with access to online • Document camera connected to computer with speakers and internet connectivity Hook • Listen to podcast of OPB/NPR story about Oregon state writing test, free write notes on the story and answer this question: “What would you say to the reporter of this story if he came to interview our class on this topic?” • Quick group discussion of their thoughts on the story. Turn in your notes. Activities (ATL: Attention to Literacy)


• (ATL) Review descriptive notes from previous class session on document camera. What details are strongest and why? • Check in on where students are in their story progress as a group • First interviews should be complete, type notes from interview at computers, print a copy and turn it in • (ATL) Copy and paste your notes into Create a word graphic and think about what it reveals. Which ideas and words are coming up most in your notes? Does this accurately reflect the angle you’re taking with this story? Print a copy and turn it in with your name on it. • If you have time and ideas, create a new document and turn your typed notes into full sentences/paragraphs that you might use in your first draft. • If you don’t have your interview notes, or if you finish early, brainstorm and prioritize questions for your next interview. Research your feature subject and their interests in preparation for interviews and writing. Due today: Turn in your NPR/OPB freewrite, a printout of your interview notes and a printout of your Wordle. Due Jan. 14: Second interview, notes handwritten for checkoff. Homework • Prepare questions for next interview. Do you want to change anything now that you’ve finished the first interview? Due date: Date of next interview Assessment • Typed notes • Wordle graphic


• One-on-one check-in with teacher to reflect on directions to take for the next interview Reflection

The students were in the computer lab today and were mostly prepared and eager to

type their interview notes and get them looking like part of a story. There were a few students who had interviews fall through, or who hadn’t arranged interviews, so I asked them to work on their question lists for their upcoming interviews (identifying those that solicit information vs. personal response, prioritizing by number) and to make contingency plans if their story sources fell through. About three students approached me just before class started and said they’d had trouble starting or finishing interviews and wanted to know if they could conduct interviews during the first part of class, which overlapped with a lunch period. I allowed them to do this and they returned within a reasonable amount of time with a fair amount of notes to work with.

They responded well to Wordle. It seems like they are mostly on track in the story

preparation process, but asking questions in interviews (and digging deeper if they don’t get clear answers) might be a challenge. Several of them had pretty sparse notes, and this is probably due to either not alloting enough time for interviews or developing note-taking skills... or not being entirely aware of what to write down.

Earlier this week my CT suggested that I model the interviewing and note-taking process

for them, and I wish I’d thought of this before they started their interviews. They did get to practice interviewing, but it might have helped to see a model. If they are still planning to do more interviews next week, I will plan to do a mock interview with a student on Tuesday.

I felt good about the logistical flow for the class today, even though we had some

technological hiccups. I liked having them start with listening to a news story and doing a quick


piece of writing about it. It keeps them aware of current news and gives me an ongoing sense of their understanding of the class and how their writing style is developing. I also really like the idea of listening to a brief summary of the day’s news. I got this idea from NPR’s hourly news update podcast, but I would like to see if other news sources offer similar podcasts.

The students seem to appreciate going over the anonymous examples of from previous

freewriting, if only because they want to see what I will say about their work. But I like using examples from the students’ work rather than only examples from outside sources.

I used a class roster as a checklist when I went around to check in with each student on

their progress. This really helped me keep track of each student and all the pieces they’re working with, and gave us time to talk about anything they’re missing or behind on. The roster also allowed me to take attendance manually because I could not access the electronic system.



FRIDAY, JAN. 14, 2011 Concept: From notes to story ***Period shortened to 45 minutes for an assembly*** State Standards: • EL.HS.RE.01, 02, 03, 04, 11, 25 • EL.HS.WR.01, 02, 05, 06, 10, 11 Learning Objectives: Students will... • Demonstrate understanding of the parts and purposes of feature stories • Identify a feature story’s essential question • Recognize and write descriptive details and informative details through observation Materials & Technology • Document camera connected to computer with speakers and internet connectivity • Sample feature story and image, such as the one included here on Queen Underwood from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer • Central Question worksheet Hook: Freewrite (photo of US women’s Olympic boxer Queen Underwood) Observe the image posted on the document camera and answer the questions below. • What are some details you notice in this picture and what do they tell you about the person in the photo? • List questions you might ask the person in this photo if you were interviewing her for a story.


• List the newspapers, websites and TV or radio stations you use most often to access the news. Activities (ATL: Attention to Literacy) • Check in on assignment timeline. • (ATL) Display my Wordle graphic based on the comments I made on their first sets of interview notes. • (ATL) Display student examples of interview questions that work well. • Clarify the definition and purpose of a Central Question (to help identify your story’s thesis). • (ATL) Read excerpts from the feature story written about Queen Underwood from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. • Outline the parts of this story on the document camera. Note the structure: i.

Starts with strong imagery representing the story subject

ii. Provides background on the person featured iii. Shows how the person featured is connected to or represents a larger current event or issue iv. Shows where the person featured is headed with the current event or issue v. Ends with new imagery representing the story subject • Introduce the Central Question worksheet. Fill it in using examples from the Queen Underwood story. • Work in pairs on the Central Question worksheets for your own feature story assignment. Homework • Due Jan. 19: First draft of story with two interviews. Assessment


• Freewrite • Central Question worksheet • Group discussion Reflection

Parts of this lesson went really well, and parts of them kind of went flat.

Based on their freewrites, the students were really engaged with the writing prompt and

were on target in their responses. I learned that most of them get their news from television, and most of them watch a local Fox affiliate, which I’m guessing is because that channel airs some of their favorite after-school programs. A small number of them read news online or in newspapers and magazines. One of them said he reads some sophisticated news sources, which was helpful to learn. He often does not turn in his assignments, but I have suspected that he has a genuine interest in journalism, and this helped confirm that. Related to the freewrites, one student wrote a horribly inappropriate response to the photo of Queen Underwood, so I gave him half credit for the assignment (which is an F on the balanced grading scale). I plan to talk with him about this during our next class session.

The students seemed fairly interested in the Queen Underwood feature story and the

way it was structured, though it was difficult to make that activity engaging because the story was long and required so much popcorn-style reading out loud. The story itself, though, is an excellent model for beginning feature writers to follow and I will use it in the future.

I copied the Central Question worksheet from a Kelly Gallagher book and I think that my

understanding of it was fuzzy from the beginning because when I tried to explain it to the students it didn’t go very far. I might re-examine this worksheet to see if I’m missing anything, or if there is something I can add to help clarify the process of identifying a central question.


Students were pretty confused by it, so I told them that it wouldn’t be a required assignment, but a worksheet that they had the option to use it in drafting their stories if they found it helpful.


Central District woman battles to win Olympic gold By ISOLDE RAFTERY SPECIAL TO SEATTLEPI.COM (September 2009) When people talk about Queen Underwood, they don't mention her bulging biceps and how she doesn't need to flex to make them pop. Nor do they talk about her square stance, her steady gaze and the way she unconsciously holds up her fists, as though always ready to fight. No. That's all too obvious. When people talk about Underwood, they talk about her style. A macho style. Diamond studs and a labret piercing she has to take out before every fight, and that she has to painfully punch back in. It's a style she carries into the ring, wearing star-spangled USA Boxing shorts she bought at a fight in Missouri and spotless white high tops. A clean style to push her rivals to the ropes, working them to exhaustion. "Queen, as in Queen of the ring," she says. "That's me." At 25, Underwood, daughter of Seattle's Central District, is a three-time USA Boxing champion. She travels the country and the world for fights and she'll likely be a contender to represent the United States at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Women's boxing was added to the Olympics last month, and those who have seen Underwood fight say she stands a good chance at winning a medal. Underwood says she's getting gold. But the confidence hasn't always been there, not for Underwood and not for women's boxing. Underwood's older sister, Hazzauna, describes a difficult childhood overcome by resilience. The sisters, the two eldest of eight, raised themselves. "I was raised with Quanitta," said Hazzauna Underwood, an emergency room nurse in New Mexico. "She's become this Queen person, this macho woman. But she's not that. She's softer and sweeter than the boxer in the ring. Once you break through that outer coating, she's a doll." At Garfield High School, Underwood ran track and played basketball; she also played viola in the orchestra.


After graduation, she set her eyes on boxing. Her uncle had been a boxer, and she'd seen the champion belts mounted on his wall.

'I wanna fight' She showed up to Cappy's Boxing Gym on 22nd and East Union looking tough. "I dressed trying to show my muscle," Underwood says, "like, 'I wanna fight. I wanna box. I wanna be a champion.' I wanted to go to the Olympics." But she was young, and she didn't have a steady job. Cap Kotz, the owner of the gym, saw that Underwood was a natural athlete. But he also saw that her life was chaotic. "She was in and out of relationships," Kotz says. "She had a broken-down car and family stuff. When she started winning, the success was challenging. That was another level. Some people don't feel they deserve it." Underwood was 19. Amateur women's boxing was even younger and, like her, struggling to find its feet.

Fight outside ring for equal treatment In 1993, 16-year-old Dallas Malloy of Bellingham challenged USA Boxing rules that barred women from amateur ranks. A U.S. District Court judge in Seattle ruled in Malloy's favor. But even today, with the door open to the Olympic Games, female boxers feel slighted. There will be 250 spots for men and 36 for women at the Olympics; the men lost those 36 spots for the women to gain entry. Boxing was the last sport at the summer games without women competitors. Women must fit into three weight classes -- flyweight (106 to 112 pounds), lightweight (123 to 132 pounds) and middleweight (152 to 165 pounds). There will be 10 weight classes for men. At 138 pounds, Underwood will have to lose weight, but that's not a concern. She thinks more about the sexes. The top two men in each weight class receive stipends of $1,000 and $50o a month -- Underwood, the national welterweight champ, receives no money. She's a fifth-year apprentice sprinkler fitter and must save up for away fights. USA Boxing spokeswoman Julie Goldsticker said that compensation comes from the United States Olympic Committee. "It hasn't been determined what kind of funding there will be for women, now that it's an Olympic sport," Goldsticker said. "There have been a lot of the discrepancies between men and women due to the USOC. It'll be interesting to see how that changes moving forward." Underwood urges speed.


"There are a lot of hungry women out there who want to learn boxing," Underwood said. "You'd have to check some of these girls. It's not just a cat fight in the ring anymore. There's some real footwork, some real action."

'Punch like a girl' Underwood, in that sense, is a product not just of her own upbringing but also of Cappy's, which is known for its undertones of social justice. Cappy's not only accepts but also embraces female boxers. Of the four coaches, two are women, a rarity in the boxing world, Kotz said. The gym is painted brick red and sits in what was once a garage. It's on a tree-lined residential block up the street from a corner that has been long known for drug slinging and where the owner of the Philadelphia Cheese Steak was shot dead last year. In the gym, people of all ages, ethnicities and abilities work out together in grueling, one-hour fitness sessions. At one class, a young Asian woman was paired with an older white woman. Both wore the same T-shirt: "Punch like a girl." But women are accepted more quickly in the ring at Cappy's than around the country. In 2007, Underwood's close friend, Lisa Kuronya of Maine, sued USA Boxing for gender discrimination and civil rights violations. When Kuronya traveled to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs the year before, male boxers were picked up from the airport and housed and fed at the facility. The men's airfare was reimbursed; the women weren't allowed in the cafeteria. Kuronya and Underwood met at the training center the year Kuronya sued. "She looked like someone you wouldn't want to mess with," Kuronya said. "She was probably the last person I thought I'd connect with." The two became inseparable. "Her work ethic is unbelievable," Kuronya said. "She and I were neck and neck at all the runs. We were sweating as much as each other, putting every last bit of work into it. Five or six days in, some people started to break down, slow down, take breaks more often. But Queen and I aren't like that."

Stuff in the basement Of her nearly 50 fights, Underwood has lost 11. She has yet to get a bloody nose. (Amateurs, unlike professional boxers, wear soft head gear. They're rewarded for clean punches more than brute force.) With each fight, she's grown more centered. She now lives in a one-bedroom apartment across the street from Garfield High with her roommate, Tierra, and Tierra's 3-year-old son, Josiah.


Her place is sparse. A huge television sits in the living room, but Underwood doesn't watch it. She doesn't have time. In the kitchen hangs a drawing of an African woman she bought at Goodwill. She credits Kotz for steering her in the right direction. "He's like my dad for me now," Underwood said. "That's how I feel. I don't know if he knows that, but he's helped me so much in and out of the gym. He's given me a different way of looking at things." The broken down car is long gone. Now she drives a red convertible Mustang. She's thriving at her strenuous job as a sprinkler fitter, riding a feminist wave outside the ring as well. "She's blazing her own trail," Hazzauna Underwood said. "If you look at what she's done as a woman and as an African-American woman, she's persevered through avenues the average woman would not." In early October, Underwood and Kotz will travel to Ecuador for the Pan-American championships. They'll also head to Southern California to fight against a professional female boxer. Kotz aims to make her more of an inside boxer, a fighter who gets close to her opponents and unleashes a torrent of hooks, straight lefts and rights and uppercuts. "She likes flashy and quick," Kotz says. "She's naturally an outside boxer." What he proposes isn't as pretty, but it's in close where damage can be done. "She's got to dig down and dig up deeper stuff," Kotz said. "If people don't have access to that stuff, they get stuck in an emotional holding pattern. At the end of Rocky, when he returns, he says he still has a lot of stuff in the basement." He may have some convincing to do. "I think an outside boxer is more pretty, more smooth," Underwood said. "Muhammad Ali was an outside boxer. (Mike) Tyson was more of an inside boxer. A brawler is an inside boxer." At the workouts, Underwood stands front and center. She says it's important to show that she's always a champion. And in the ring before each match, she dances around the mat to test her balance. She'll bump gloves with her opponent -- hard, to intimidate -- and give the judges on all four sides a boxer bow to show her respect. If her rival avoids eye contact or lightly taps her gloves, she knows the woman is scared. That pre-game psychology is key, Underwood says. After all, "Muhammad Ali didn't just stand in the corner."


The Central Question the author is exploring is: ____________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________ When the What is the author’s argument or main answer to point? the Central Question is

How does the author support the argument or main point?

YES then...

When the What is the author’s argument or main answer to point? the Central Question is

How does the author support the argument or main point?

NO then...

Based on my notes in these charts, I think the author’s thesis or main point is: _____________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________ 44



WEDNESDAY, JAN. 19, 2011 Concept: From notes to story State Standards: • EL.HS.RE.02, 03, 04, 11, 19, 25, 33 • EL.HS.WR.02, 06, 10, 11, 27 • EL.HS.SL.03 Learning Objectives: Students will... • Understand the parts and purposes of feature stories • Identify a feature story’s essential question • Understand elements of effective one-on-one interviews • Recognize and write descriptive details and informative details through observation Materials & Technology • Document camera connected to computer with speakers and internet connectivity • Audio clip of story on JFK speech from • Central Question worksheet • Parts of a Feature Story handout • Feature story example


Hook Listen to the news story about President John F. Kennedy Jr.’s speech and write down notes as you go along. In complete sentences please answer these questions: 1. What do you think is the central question of this story? (The answer is NOT a quote such as “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”) 2. Describe the variety of people interviewed in this story. Why do you think the reporter chose them? During the freewrite, I will check in with each student to see if they have a first draft. That assignment and any late assignments will be stamped by me with a date stamp. Activities (ATL: Attention to Literacy) • Review list of assignments that are due today, and assignments that can still be turned in late. • Preview list of assignments that are due before the semester ends next Friday. This includes the Feature Story final packet and post-test. • Review the Central Question worksheet, using a student’s completed worksheet as an example. • (ATL) Pass out and go over key points in Parts of a Feature Story handout, including the feature story example about the baker Nenad Indic. • As time allows, students can work on their story drafts in class. Homework & Upcoming Assignments • Friday, Jan. 21: Second draft of feature story is due. You will read your classmate’s story drafts in small groups.


• Tuesday, Jan. 25: Final draft of feature story is due. Please turn this in with a packet including all assignments for the Feature Writing unit, NOT including your freewrites • Thursday, Jan. 27: Test on the Feature Writing unit. We will review what we have learned so you will be ready to answer True/False and Multiple Choice questions, and to identify elements of Feature Writing in your own story. Assessment • Freewrite • Central Question worksheet (optional) • Class discussion Reflection

I did a lot of preparation for today’s lesson, and I’m glad I did but I still don’t feel like I

met my mark today. Last week one student told me very clearly, “I don’t know how to write a feature story.” And he basically asked for a template or a general outline of the structure for the feature story he would turn in. I realized he had a very valid request, so I set about to create a clear outline for the students. This also helped me clarify what I would be evaluating them on in their final stories.

The challenge came, though, when I asked the students to relate their feature subject to

a current issue or cultural trend. This might not have been as much of a challenge if I had introduced the idea earlier (when they were starting their interviews and choosing their topics), but the students’ response in today’s class told me that this would be difficult for them to do, especially at this point in the unit. I think this is also difficult for them to do because they don’t follow the news very closely, and because they are not quite there developmentally when it comes to making connections between individual situations and larger issues or trends.


My cooperating teacher has advised that I not emphasize the tie-in with a current event,

and we have agreed that students who do this will receive some bonus points, but students who do not do this will not be graded down.

The challenge now is for me to figure out how to outline and describe the elements of a

personality profile feature story that come between the Story Intro/Personal Intro and the Conclusion. I thought it would be that the body of the story would demonstrate how a feature subject represents a current issue or trend. Now I see that it won’t work that way. So what else do you fill a feature story with? Writing feature stories is something that has always come rather naturally to me without structural analysis, so this metacognition is a bit of a challenge right now.

I feel a little bit frustrated that I can’t make current issues and trends a bigger part of

this personality profile assignment because in my experience as a journalist, I don’t think there was ever a time when I wrote a personality profile about someone that was not connected to current news or a current trend. If your feature isn’t connected to current news, it can feel like you’re writing in a vacuum. This is where I see the practical emphasis in my approach to teaching -- I want my lessons to have real-world application!

I am trying to think of stories I have written in the past that present a personality profile

WITHOUT a direct connection to current news. I need to dig for some examples, either from my own writing or elsewhere.

When we have our next lesson on Friday, I want students to be reassured. They looked a

little scared during our lesson today, thinking about everything they have to do, and I worry that I made it more intimidating than it needs to be. I want them to be assured that they are being guided by a capable professional, and that I want to set them up to be successful. I want


to take the information I have given them and CLARIFY what I want them to do, rather than removing anything major or changing course too drastically.

LATER TODAY: I had another brief discussion with my cooperating teacher and I think

we’ve found a clearer way to present the structure of a feature story. I plan to stick with the same criteria for the Intro, Bio/Central Idea and Conclusion, but students will have the option to organize the body of their story as subtopics of their Central Idea. They will be able to choose what those subtopics are based on their notes from interviews and research, and if they find a way to connect it to current issues or trends, all the better for them. I plan to use a personality profile I wrote about a baker as an example of this structure and hope to find one more example.

This experience is showing me the value of having an archive of sample pieces of

writing for students to use as models or inspiration. I also see more of the value of choosing sample pieces of writing to work that I can shape my unit around -- it’s easier to find a story that already exists with an existing effective structure than it is to create a structure and look for a story that fits within it.

My cooperating teacher said she admired that I showed them a work in progress today

with my sample story so they could see that polished writing usually doesn’t happen unless you put in work on revising your first drafts.

Also, the results of today’s freewrite show that these students have a solid grasp of the

concept of the Central Question and factors a reporter might consider when choosing story sources. Success!


Parts of a Feature Story First things first! When you decide what to include in your story, always keep your central question in mind. Always think about what’s at the heart of your story.

My central question for this story is: ______________________________________________________________________ ? Feature stories can be written in many forms. For our study of personality profiles this semester, we are going to use the structure below:

Introduction or Lead

Create a snapshot with words so readers feel like they have seen or met the person you’re writing about. A feature lead puts you in the scene and shows the character of the person you’re writing about using descriptive details. (Note: There are many styles of feature leads that you can experiment with on later stories. Styles include anecdote, punch, striking statement, humor, narrative, riddle.)

Biography and Central Idea

This is like a news lead and it briefly answers your central question. Tell the readers who the person is and what they have accomplished. This is the place to especially focus on informative details.

The Personal Side of a Broader Issue or Trend

This is where you make connections. How is this person connected to a broader issue or trend? Combine descriptive details with informative details to tell their personal story related to this issue or trend. NOT REQUIRED - YOU CAN DO THIS FOR BONUS POINTS

Facts on the Broader Issue or Trend

Provide informative details about the issue or trend that the person is connected to. NOT REQUIRED - YOU CAN DO THIS FOR BONUS POINTS


Create a new snapshot with words about the person you’re writing about, again using descriptive details. Make sure your conclusion relates to your introduction and central question. A feature conclusion can be dramatic, but it should not be forced. No happily ever after!

Story length: There is no length requirement on this assignment, but it’s up to you to include all of the information you have that answers your story’s central question. Each section of your story could be as short as one sentence or as long as multiple paragraphs, depending on how much information you have from your interviews, notes or bonus research. Remember, sometimes in journalism a paragraph can be as short as one sentence. See the other side for a checklist of things to include in your feature story. Ms. Thompson will use this checklist when grading your final story. 50

Feature Story Checklist Ms. Thompson will use this checklist when grading your final story.  My story includes information and quotes from:  An interview with my main source


 An interview with at least one person who knows my main source  Bonus: Research I did outside of my interviews (reading online, in books, in


visiting your subject’s house or workplace, etc.)  I identified a central question for this story and each part of my story helps answer that question.  My story includes a lead that gets the reader’s attention and gives a sense of my subject’s personality through descriptive details.  My story includes a short biography on the person I am writing about, explaining the who, what, where, when and why of my story subject.  My story points out ways that my subject is personally connected to a current issue in the news or a current trend in culture.  My story gives a short explanation of the issue or trend my subject is connected to, and I use informative details to do this.  My story has a conclusion that connects to the main issues I mentioned in the story, and includes descriptive details.  I used imagery and descriptive details all through my story, but especially in the introduction and conclusion.  If I added anything to the story that is not from the outline on the other side of this page, I made sure that it connected to my story’s central question.  To the best of my knowledge, everything in my story is true, and I have checked on anything that seems questionable.  My story is typed and double-spaced.  I have checked my story for:  Spelling

 Grammar

 Capitalization and punctuation

 Bonus: Use of Associated Press (AP) style


[Headline] A recipe for artisan flavor [Subheadline] Julia Bakery’s owner mixes organic ingredients, European traditions with a love for baked goods [Byline] By Charity Thompson For North Bank [Introduction] Someone needs to make a documentary film about Nenad Indic and his love of food. This is a guy who notices how grocery purchases reflect socioeconomic changes, who will look you straight in the eye and tell you in a rich baritone voice, “I am crazy about Italian (food) deep in my soul.” [Biography and Central Idea] Since May 2007 he has run Julia Bakery, bringing artisan breads and desserts to Vancouver’s palate from its shop on Fort Vancouver Way and from the Vancouver Farmers Market. While the term ‘artisan’ is used often, for Indic it reflects food products that combine quality ingredients with a love of baking and old European baking techniques. Love of the craft When he pulls bread from the oven, he listens carefully for its crust to crack. “We call that bread singing,” he said. “To get it, you have to make all the steps perfect in production.” Julia Bakery’s kitchen operates primarily from a steam-and-stone oven designed specifically for bread baking, though Indic said many bakeries bake bread in ovens built for cakes. While he claims that baking is a simple craft, Indic emphasizes that every step in a recipe must be done with great care. [Central idea] “You must love your job 100 percent,” Indic said. “If you don’t, you will not get good bread. ... The product will tell you in the end if it’s good or not.” [Subtopic 1] Quality ingredients All Julia Bakery products are made from scratch, primarily from organic ingredients. “If you have bad ingredients you can make nice shapes, but they have a bad taste,” Indic said. He forbids anyone to mention shortening in his kitchen. He favors butter, which he admits has higher caloric content, but he prefers for its natural flavors. Indic became versed in organic cooking techniques as bakery manager at Portland-based New Seasons Market. Today he is working his way toward operating a certified organic kitchen. At this point, he said, about 75 percent of his bread ingredients are organic, including 100 percent of his flours. He’s solidifying the kitchen’s procedures for use of organic ingredients and is training his four kitchen staff in organic baking techniques. “If you go in that direction, you cannot miss,” he said. [Subtopic 2] Old world influence Born in Croatia, Indic learned to cook first with his late mother, the bakery’s namesake, and later with the bakery management program at Clark College. “In Croatia we have huge influence from German and Italian cultures in the kitchen,” he said. “We take that and make it a little bit better.” These days he’s trying his hand at Nord breads, such as Swiss Rye.


With the European influence in American kitchens, Indic sees a shift in the quality and nutritional value of our food. He noted that artisan whole-grain breads often have higher vitamin and fiber content over processed white-flour breads. Part of that is because higher quality food is often more filling, he said, and its satisfying in smaller portions. [Subtopic 3 and Conclusion] Food equality In an interview last winter with the Vancouver Business Journal, Indic said that access to quality food is a class issue. “It’s very important that prices go down,” Indic said. “You can’t expect one type of people to eat one kind of food and one type of people to eat another. It’s food discrimination.” He noted this fall that as early as 25 years ago, bread made with whole grains was seen as poor man’s food while the wealthy ate white bread. Partly because of its appeal as the rich man’s bread, Indic said, white-flour bread is now more used more often among the masses. He hopes the growing popularity of artisan foods will help make high-quality ingredients more affordable and accessible. He said that for many people, processed food appears on their plates more out of habit than frugality. And that comes with a cost to our health. A loaf of dark bread from Julia Bakery costs about $5, he said. While that’s at least twice the price of processed white-flour bread, an artisan loaf can feed two people for three days, or longer if stored in a refrigerator or preservation bag. Two slices of dark bread per daily can meet a person’s daily fiber needs, he said. “You can always buy nice food because food is still the cheapest stuff in your budget,” he said. ###



FRIDAY, JAN. 21, 2011 Concept: From notes to story State Standards: • EL.HS.RE.01, 02, 03, 04, 11, 19, 25 • EL.HS.WR.02, 05, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 14, 17, 18, 19 Learning Objectives: Students will... • Evaluate feature story subject choices • Review drafts of feature stories about individuals related to their school • Identify a feature story’s essential question • Recognize and write descriptive details and informative details through observation Materials & Technology: • Document camera connected to computer with speakers and internet connectivity • Access to videos at • Updated Parts of a Feature Story handout • Exit slips Hook Recruitment visit from Newspaper staff (10 min.) Freewrite • Watch the student news video and take notes as you listen, then answer these questions in complete sentences:


• What did you like best about this story? • Was there anything in the story that you wanted to know more about, or anything that confused you? • What would you ask Haley if you were doing this story? Activities (ATL: Attention to Literacy) • Review list of assignments to have checked off (if you haven’t already) • Check off, return assignments • Second draft of feature story is due • Review list of upcoming activities and assignments • Go over Updated Parts of a Feature Story worksheet (AP Style) (10 min.) and new structure option for final feature stories • (ATL) Read-Around Groups (35 min for reading/group decision, 10-15 min for class discussion) • Two volunteers to have their stories workshopped on the document camera. Look at what’s working. Note questions you still have. Is anything missing? • Split into groups of four or five. Each person gets a label with a number on it. Put this label over your name on your draft. Gather all papers from your group and pass them to the group to your right. • Each student has 1 minute to read 1 paper. When you come across something that works well in each story, put a star by it (at least 1 star for each story you read). Don’t worry about reading all of the story. After 1 minute (or two if needed) pass the story to the person sitting to your right in your group.


• Choose a group recorder. As a group, take 2 minutes to decide what worked best in the stories you read and come up with two reasons using examples from the stories. The group recorder will note the examples of what makes the story work. • Pass the stories and repeat the process once or twice, depending on time. Make sure your group does NOT read its own stories. • Each group will share with the class what they thought worked best in the stories overall, and we will list these qualities as a group. I will choose a student whose paper received lots of stars and ask to show their story on the document camera as an example of a story that includes many of the working pieces we talked about. • (ATL) Alternate Activity: Question Flood (10 min.) • Find a partner and swap story drafts. Mark anything within your partner’s story that confuses you, or that makes you think of questions for the author. Write down all of the questions you have for your partner on the draft. This is a time to concentrate on the content and organization of your partner’s story rather than the grammar and mechanics. • If you do not have a draft prepared today, prepare to meet with Ms. Thompson to create an action plan for finishing your story. Wrap up (5 min.) • Students will complete exit slips: • Something I will change on my story draft is ______. Something I still want to learn about feature writing is _______. • Students will recollect their story drafts and turn in their exit slips at the end of class. Homework & Upcoming Assignments


• Tuesday, Jan. 25: Final draft of feature story is due, review elements of Feature Writing for upcoming test. • Thursday, Jan. 27: Test on the Feature Writing unit. You will answer True/False and Multiple Choice questions, and you will identify elements of Feature Writing in your own story. Prepare for our next unit on Newspaper Design. Assessment • Freewrite • Group discussion • Read-Around Groups/ Question Flood • Exit slips Reflection

Today’s session went well, but not as I had planned. The recruitment visit from the

newspaper students tool about 30 minutes instead of the 10 minutes I had allotted for (this was the students’ error, not my own), so I lost all of the time I had planned to use for Read-Around Groups. This was especially frustrating because I have not had time to carefully review my students’ story drafts, and the Read-Around Groups were intended for them to receive feedback from their peers and for me to check in on their drafting progress. Because of this, I used the time we had at the end of this session for Kelly Gallagher’s Question Flood activity, which I’m hoping was useful for the students. The exit slips were especially helpful and told me a lot about where students are in their understanding of the feature-writing process. On a positive note, students responded very well to the updated criteria sheet for their final feature story packets. Connecting their feature story subjects to a current issue or trend in the news is now offered as extra credit, not as a requirement.


Parts of a Personality Profile Feature Story • Introduction or Lead - Create a snapshot with words revealing the character of the person you’re writing about by using descriptive details. • Biography and Central Idea - Write it like a news lead and briefly answer your central question. Focus on informative details. • First Subtopic of Central Idea - Combine descriptive details with informative details to tell your subject’s personal story. • Second Subtopic of Central Idea - Again, combine descriptive details with informative details to tell your subject’s personal story. • Continue with more subtopics of your central idea as needed. • Conclusion - Create a new snapshot with words about the person using descriptive details. Relate this section to your introduction and central question.

Final Feature Story Assignments to include in your packet

Extra credit possible with this assignment

Please arrange your work from newest to oldest. • Third/final draft of your feature story. • Second draft of your feature story. • First draft of your feature story. Highlight the first time you quote each of your sources, and mark them as “first source” and “second source.” • Notes from your second interview. • A printed Wordle graphic made from notes from your first interview (include your second interview notes in this Wordle if you turned your first interview in late) • Notes from your first interview • A list of questions for your first interview • A list of your primary and secondary story sources’ names with phone numbers

Extra credit can take you up to 100% of points possible, but not more. In at least one of your story sections, show how your story subject connects to a current issue or cultural trend. Don’t force it! If the connection isn’t clear or doesn’t sound natural, you can finish the story without it. In your story include information from research you did outside of your interviews (reading online, in books, in magazines, visiting your subject’s house or workplace, etc.) With your final story packet, turn in a completed Central/Essential Question worksheet In your final story draft, use the writing conventions you know from Associated Press (AP) Style. Highlight these in your story with a note or marker. Copies of the AP Stylebook are available for your reference.

Continued on following page...


Parts of a Personality Profile Feature Story Tips for Journalistic Style • • • • •

Final drafts should be typed! The sooner you get your notes typed, the better chance you have of turning them into a polished typed story. In journalism a paragraph can be as short as one sentence. Start each paragraph with three spaces, not an indent. Always give a quote its own paragraph. The first time you mention a person in a story, use their first and last name. After that, use last name only. End quotes with: “__________,” _____ said. (Example: “These students are wildly intelligent,” she said.) When you refer to information that came from research other than an interview, introduce it with: According to _______, [insert info here]. (Example: According to research by the Thompson Institute for Cookies, chocolate chips are scientifically linked to happiness.)


Name: ______________________________! !



Date: ________________

Exit Slip Something that people liked about my work was ...

Something that I will change about my story is ...

Something that I still want to learn about feature writing is ...



TUESDAY, JAN. 25, 2011 Concept: Finishing touches State Standards: • EL.HS.RE.01, 11, 25 • EL.HS.WR.05, 06, 08, 09, 12, 14, 17, 18, 19 Learning Objectives: Students will... • Demonstrate understanding of the parts and purposes of feature stories • Draft personality profile feature stories about individuals related to their school • Identify a feature story’s essential question Materials & Technology • Access to computer lab with printer and a workstation available for each student • Access to an online countdown timer Hook • Third draft of your feature story will be checked off at the beginning of the period • Discussion: Share what your main goal is for your final draft today Activities (ATL: Attention to Literacy) • Revision Stage 1 (5 min.): Get in pairs and swap stories. Keeping each other’s main goal in mind, read each other’s stories and note any ideas you have for reaching those goals. • Revision Stage 2 (20 min.): Polish your final draft at your computer station. Ms. Thompson will visit each of you for a quick conference and problem solving.


• Revision Stage 3 (5 min.): Get in pairs again. Are your revisions helping you reach your goal for the day? If not, what can you do? • Revision Stage 4 (20 min.): Continue polishing your final draft. • Revision Stage 5 (5 min.): Check in with your partner for final revisions. Look for spelling, grammar, punctuation, AP formatting, etc. • Revision Stage 6 (10 min.): Add your final changes to your story, including spellcheck. Print a copy of your final draft and turn it in. • Assemble your final packet (5 min.) • (ATL) Pick up a Feature Writing Unit Review sheet Homework & Upcoming Assignments • Complete Feature Writing Unit Review sheet in preparation for unit test Jan. 27. Assessment • Final feature story packet, individual progress noted from beginning of period to end. Reflection

I originally planned for students to pair up and do Kelly Gallagher’s Question Flood

activity with their near-final drafts, but we had to do that in our last period when we ran out of time for Read Around Groups.

The free work period worked well for the students, and it also gave me another chance

to check in with students individually on their progress. I was especially pleased with the way the timed segments worked with this group -- it broke the drafting process down into manageable steps and the countdown clock was always on the screen to remind them to stay on task.


Feature Writing Unit Review Compiled from • Feature stories serve many purposes in the news. The type of feature story that we learned most about in this unit is the ________________________ _________________________. • Feature stories can also serve purposes such as: • Explain and _______________ the events that affect the news • _____________ readers how to do something • Examine trends • Entertain • Definitions of feature story types: • ________________ profiles: Written to bring an audience closer to a person in or out of the news. Interviews and observations, as well as creative writing, are used to paint a vivid picture of the person. • Human ___________ stories: Written to show a subject’s oddity or its practical, emotional, or entertainment value. • Trend stories: A trend story examines people, things or ______________ that are having an impact on society. Trend stories are popular because people are excited to read or hear about the latest fads. • In-depth stories: Through extensive _______________ and interviews, in-depth stories provide a detailed account well beyond a basic news story or feature. • Backgrounders/Analysis: Adds meaning to current issues in the news by explaining them further. These articles bring an audience up-to-date, explaining how this country, this organization, this person happens to be where it is now. • ____________ news events--such as the death of a famous public figure or the plans of city council to raise taxes--affect many people, and the primary job of the media is to report them as they happen. • ____________ news, such as the widespread popularity of tattooing among athletes or the resurgence of interest in perennial gardening, is also reported by the media. • Feature stories are often written about hard/soft (circle one) news events. • True or false: It is possible for a hard news story to be written in a feature style.


• A ferry boat sinking in the Greek islands is an example of a hard/soft (circle one) news story. • The story of a Canadian couple who had their vacation cut short when the ferry boat sunk is an example of a hard/soft (circle one) news story. • _______________ news refers to events that are currently developing and is often unexpected, such as a plane crash or building fire. It can also refer to news that occurs close to a news outlet's usual deadline. • A ______________ runs next to the main story or elsewhere in the same edition, providing an audience with additional information on the same topic. • _______________ detail: Provides facts, such as who, what, where, when and why. • _______________ detail: Provides a snapshot with words. • The central _____________ of a story is introduced early in the story and every other part of the story connects to it in some way. The sections of a story are typically made up of ____________ of the central ______________.



THURSDAY, JAN. 27, 2011 Concept: What have we learned? Unit review and test State Standards: • EL.HS.RE.01, 03, 04, 11, 19, 25 • EL.HS.WR.02, 10, 12, 14, 17, 18, 19 Learning Objectives: Students will... • Demonstrate understanding of the difference between hard news and soft news • Demonstrate understanding of the parts and purposes of feature stories • Recognize and write descriptive details and informative details through observation Materials & Technology • Computer with internet connectivity and speakers • Access to Tunisia and censorship audio clip on • Document camera • Extra unit review sheets • Unit test copies Hook Freewrite: Tunisia and censorship (10 min.) Listen to the news story and take notes as you listen, then answer these questions in complete sentences: • How does it make you feel when you know someone isn’t telling the whole truth?


• What is censorship? Why does it matter that Tunisian newspapers are no longer censored? Activities (ATL: Attention to Literacy) • (ATL) Unit review before test (15 min.) • Take 3 minutes to quietly go over the test review sheet again • In pairs share (2 min.): • One thing on the review that you are confident you know • One thing on the review that you are not sure about • Share questions with the group • Repeat pair share (2 min.), group share • Test on the feature writing unit (20-25 min.) • You will answer True/False and Multiple Choice questions • You will identify elements of Feature Writing in your own story. • When you are done with your test, on a blank sheet of paper, please make three short lists that you will turn in (5 min.): • Things I did for my feature story that I am really proud of (It could be in your final draft, your interview process, your research, etc.) • Things I wish I had done to make my feature story better • Aspects of feature writing that I would still like to learn more about • YES! Group circle sharing (10 min.) • When everyone is finished testing, please arrange your chairs/desks in a circle. Each person is welcome to share at least one thing they learned about feature writing that they are really proud of. Each person in the group is responsible for listening and for responding with “YES!”


• Continue the group circle sharing (15 min.) • What have we learned? What helped us learn it? • The difference between hard news and soft news • Informative detail • Descriptive detail • Choosing a story topic • Planning interviews • Conducting interviews • Figuring out a story’s central idea • Turning your notes into a story • Return desks to their original places • If there is extra time: Listen to and discuss recent video game feature story written by a teenager. Homework & Upcoming Assignments - None Assessment • Freewrite • Unit review • Unit test • Group discussion Reflection

The freewrites and discussion regarding today’s story about the lift on censorship of

Tunisia’s news outlets was incredibly rich, and it showed me that these students are learning to think critically about the news. One thing that was fascinating to me was that the majority of


students said that when someone keeps information from another person or group, it’s an indicator of a lack of trust. I had never seen it this way before, and that idea has huge implications when it comes to a government censoring its news -- it means the government doesn’t trust its own citizens! I want to make sure I tell my students how much I appreciate their wisdom on this topic.

The students said they were nervous during the test review, but they all finished the test

within less than the allotted time. I will be curious to see the results of this test, especially compared to the results of their pretests and final story packets.

My cooperating teacher had the idea to end the unit with a celebration of the work the

students had done, and I found that the YES!-circle was an effective way to do this. It took a while for students to warm up and talk freely with the group, but by the end of the circle session, it felt like a genuine discussion rather than a class requirement. The process also gave me a clear idea of what the students had accomplished and where I need to head with these students in my next unit, in which they will start researching, planning and writing feature stories for publication in the student newspaper’s final issue of the year.


Name: ________________________

Date: _____________

Feature Writing Unit Test Circle the answer that you believe is most correct. 1. The purpose of feature stories is to: a. Give a picture of someone’s life and personality b. Examine trends c. Explain and analyze events that affect the news d. Teach readers how to do something e. All of the above 2. True or false: A good feature story needs to be long 3. True or false: Breaking news is often reported in feature stories. 4. A story about a recent report on the growing number of homeless teenagers in Oregon is an example of hard/soft (circle one) news. 5. A story describing a day in the life of a homeless teenager in Oregon is an example of


(circle one) news. 6. Which is an example of a hard news story subject? a. A Glencoe student who struggles with a chronic illness b. An album review c. New graduation requirements announced this month d. A day in the life of a homeless teenager 7. Which is an example of a soft news story subject? a. Results of a recent soccer game b. A profile of a foreign exchange student c. Budget cuts for Glencoe’s Lacrosse team d. A fire that burned down the Glencoe cafeteria this month

Please complete these definitions of feature story types: 8. _____________________ profiles: Written to bring an audience closer to a person. Interviews, observations, and creative writing, are used to paint a vivid picture of the person. 69

Please complete these definitions of feature story types (continued): 9. Trend stories: Examine people, groups, things or ______________ that are having a current impact on society and culture. 10. In-depth stories: provide a detailed account well beyond a basic news story or feature through extensive _______________ and interviews, in-depth stories. 11. The type of feature story that we learned most about in this unit is the _____________________ ___________________. 12. _____________________ detail: Provides a snapshot with words. 13. _____________________ detail: Provides facts, such as who, what, where, when and why. 14. A central _____________ is introduced early in the story and every other part of the story connects to it in some way.

15. From your final feature story, please copy or summarize your central idea/question here:

16. From your final feature story, please name one of the subtopics of your central idea/question here:

17. From your final feature story, please copy a sentence here that provides informative details. If you cannot find one in your story, please write an original one here:

18. From your final feature story, please copy a sentence here that provides descriptive details. If you cannot find one in your story, please write an original one here:



Writing Feature Stories: Data on Learning Gains


Sample Balanced Grading Scale

Traditional Grading Scale



90 80 70 60 50


100 90 80 70 60

90 - 100 80 - 89 70 - 79 60 - 69 0 - 59 Figure IV.1

Ethnicity Codes 1 African American 2 Caucasian 3 Hispanic/Latino 4 Asian/Pacific Isl. 5 Amer. Indian 6 Mixed 7 Other

  Student 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20


Gender Codes 1 Female 2 Male

Learning Needs Codes 1 ELL 2 TAG 3 SPED 4 STYLE Figure IV.2



Learning Needs

2 6

1 2

7 2 2 2 2 3 6 2 2 2 2 4 4 2 2 6 7 3

1 1 1 1 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 2 2 2 1



Figure IV.3


Student 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

PreAssessment Score % 41.67% 50% 91.67% 41.67% 0% 91.67% 33.33% 75% 66.67% 66.67% 83.33% 75% 66.67% 91.67% 50% 25% 66.67% 58.33% 66.67% 41.67%

PostAssessment Score % 90.91% 90.91% 100% 36.36% 0% 100% 0% 100% 100% 100% 81.82% 72.73% 100% 100% 100% 90.91% 72.73% 90.91% 100% 100%

Final Paper Score %

85.71% 74.29% 91.43% 71.43% 0.00% 91.43% 0.00% 88.57% 100.00% 91.43% 65.71% 100.00% 97.14% 100.00% 100.00% 71.43% 77.14% 77.14% 80.00% 91.43% Figure IV.3


Covered in Pre/Post Assessment

Covered in Additional Assessments

Unit Goal 1: Students will demonstrate understanding of the difference between hard news and soft news



Final Feature Story Packet

Unit Goal 2: Students will brainstorm and draft personality profile feature stories about individuals related to their school



Story drafts

Unit Goal 3: Students will evaluate feature story subject choices



Final Feature Story Packet

Unit Goal 4: Students will identify a feature story’s essential question


Final Feature Story Packet

Unit Goal 5: Students will plan and conduct oneon-one interviews


Final Feature Story Packet


Freewrites, Final Feature Story Packet

Unit Goals

Unit Goal 6: Students will recognize and write descriptive details and informative details through observation


Assessed by Other Measures

Figure IV.4


Student 20

Student 19

Student 18

Post-Assessment %

Student 17

Student 16

Student 15

Student 14

Student 13

Student 12

Student 11

Student 10

Student 9

Student 8

Student 7

Student 6

Student 5

Student 4

Student 3

Student 2

Student 1

Pre-Assessment % Final Paper %

Key Assessment Percentage Scores












Figure IV.5


Final Paper Scores for Sample Population Packet Organization 60% 100% 70%

Final Paper Score % 65.71% 100% 80%

  Student 11 12 19

Story Informative Develop- /Descriptive ment Detail 50% 100% 100% 100% 60% 100%

Written Clear Journalistic Mechanics Central Idea Conventions 60% 60% 60% 100% 100% 100% 100% 80% 80%

Figure IV.6

Student 11

Student 12

Student 19

Sample Population Final Story Component Scores 1.0 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2



de a


lI Jo

ur na lis








ha ec M

en W rit t

cr es e/ D iv at m or In f

ni cs

il De ta e iv ip t

ve De or y St

Pa ck

et O

rg an

lo p



m en t



Figure IV.7



Writing Feature Stories: Interpretation of Learning Gains


Overall Learning Gains

The average unit grade for this work sample

was 77.5 percent, or a high ‘C’ on the balanced grading scale (Figure V.1). Reflected in this number is the fact that thirteen of the twenty students in

Sample Balanced Grading Scale

Traditional Grading Scale



90 80 70 60 50


100 90 80 70 60

this class earned an ‘A’ or ‘B’ for the unit, but two

90 - 100 80 - 89 70 - 79 60 - 69 0 - 59 Figure V.1

students did not participate in the unit at all (thus earning zeroes) and five students earned a ‘C’ or ‘D’. Thus, seventy-two percent of the students who participated in the unit demonstrated satisfactory learning gains at the ‘A’ or ‘B’ level, while twenty-eight percent of participating students at the ‘C’ or ‘D’ level demonstrated a need for further learning in the content area, which includes journalism as well as time management. Traditional Tests and Written Assessment Gains

In order to provide a clear comparison from the beginning to the end of the unit, I

designed pre- and post-assessments that were quite similar to each other. But my summative assessment also included a packet of student work with a final feature story draft, previous drafts, organizational worksheets and interview notes. To demonstrate my priorities in evaluation, the pre-assessment was worth only one point on students’ official records (rather than twelve points), the post-assessment was worth eleven points (rather than twenty-two), and the summative final story packets were worth their actual thirty-five points.

On the pre-assessment, participating students’ scores ranged from twenty-five percent

to ninety-two percent, with a total average of fifty-nine percent. Five students had the most commonly occurring score on the pre-assessment, which was was sixty-seven percent.


Post-assessment scores ranged from thirty-six percent to one hundred percent, with the

low score coming from a student with an Individual Education Plan who also missed several days of class due to illness. The average score on the post-assessment was eighty-one percent, including two students who did not participate. The most commonly occurring score on the post-assessment was one hundred percent (with ten scores at this level), followed by four students who scored ninety-two percent. The high incidence of perfect scores on the postassessment caused me to wonder if I had designed the test at an appropriate level of difficulty, thus giving the the test less weight in the students’ official grade reports. From the preassessment to the post-assessment, the average score increased by twenty-two percentage points (including the non-participating students), as seen in Figure V.2.

Pre-Assessment %

Post-Assessment %

Final Paper %

Key Assessment Percentage Scores

Student 20

Student 19

Student 18

Student 17

Student 16

Student 15

Student 14

Student 13

Student 12

Student 11

Student 10

Student 9

Student 8

Student 7

Student 6

Student 5

Student 4

Student 3

Student 2

Student 1

1.0 0.9 0.8 0.7 0.6 0.5 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 0

Figure V.2


Sample Population Written Assessment Comparison

In examining the outcomes of the written assessments, I focused on a sample

population of three students -- Student 11, a female sophomore who received a low score; Student 12, a female junior who received a high score; and Student 19, a male senior who received a mid-level score. (See Figure V.3.) Strictly coincidentally, students 12 and 19 wrote feature stories about the same Glencoe student, though they covered quite different areas of the student’s life.

Final Paper Scores for Sample Population

  Student 11 12 19

Packet Organization 60% 100% 70%

Final Paper Score % 65.71% 100% 80%

Story Informative Develop- /Descriptive ment Detail 50% 100% 100% 100% 60% 100%

Written Clear Journalistic Mechanics Central Idea Conventions 60% 60% 60% 100% 100% 100% 100% 80% 80%

Figure V.3

Student 11

Student 12

Student 19

Sample Population Final Story Component Scores 1.0 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2


io ns











M ec n


ur na l



te W rit

rip sc De e/ iv at m

Figure IV.4

In f


ha n

De e tiv

lo ve De ry

St o



en pm

tio ni za tO rg a ke Pa c






The top scoring student (Student 12) received a perfect score of one hundred percent on

her final story and its accompanying packets -- earning all points possible in the areas of organization, story development, informative and descriptive detail, written mechanics, clarity of central idea, and journalistic conventions. Her story provided a personality profile of a student who was born with webbed fingers, and she handled the topic with sensitivity while emphasizing her subject’s personal and physical strengths. The final draft of the story was nearly ready for publication in a student newspaper, which was the ultimate goal of this unit. As an overall unit score, this student received an eighty-seven percent, having lost points primarily because assignments had been turned in late throughout the duration of the unit.

Student 19 received an overall score of eighty percent on his story packet, earning one

hundred percent in his use of informative and descriptive details, as well as in his written mechanics, and earning eighty percent for his story’s central idea and for his use of journalistic conventions. What brought his overall score down, though, was his packet organization -receiving a seventy percent score because it was missing pieces and several pieces were turned in late -- and his story development, which received a sixty percent due to the story’s brevity, short list of interviewees, and shallow exploration of its central idea, which was that his subject’s hat collection was a defining part of his personal life. In light of the fact that this student did not pass Glencoe’s journalism course during the previous school year, his continual struggle with time management and understanding of project purpose was evident in his work. But a project score in the ‘B’ range, as well as an overall unit grade of seventy-two percent, show that this student made considerable learning gains since his first attempt at the course.


Student 11 received an overall score of sixty-six percent on her final story draft and its

accompanying packet. She chose a clear story subject -- a Glencoe student who grows exotic plants -- but she was hampered in the process of story development by difficulty in arranging interviews, a possible timidity in conducting interviews, and the distraction of preparing to move out of state shortly after this unit concluded. Student 11 scored highest in writing informative and descriptive detail, earning one hundred percent, but she earned only sixty percent in each of the areas of packet organization, written mechanics, central idea and journalistic conventions. She scored lowest, at fifty percent, in her story development. It was evident that this student would not receive a high score on this project early in the unit, when she delayed in the interview planning process, which is crucial to the success of the rest of the project. The good news is, though, that this student expressed interest in continuing with journalism in school once she got settled in her new home out of state.

The comparison of these students’ scores on this summative assessment provided a

useful mirror that I believe reflects the class as a whole during this unit. From their positive results in the rubric category of writing informative and descriptive detail, it was clear that I had done well in my instruction in that area, and that the daily writing prompts I provided in order to develop that skill were effective. Students also proved to have a decent, if not solid, understanding of basic journalistic conventions and the concept of a story’s central idea, which were covered in the previous quarter and throughout this unit, respectively. Students’ scores lagged in packet organization, which was likely because it required turning in assignments on time and keeping project materials for an extended period of time. Students’ scores lagged most in story development, which I believe is partly connected to the students’ abilities as beginning writers, but primarily due to the fact that I had little time for reviewing the students’


story drafts and interview notes. I find this unfortunate, and will explore ways to prevent this from happening with future writing units in the following section.



Writing Feature Stories: Uses of Data


Knowledge Gained from Assessment

Throughout this unit I completed formative assessments on a continual basis, including

checking for understanding during lessons and group discussions, assigning written responses to news reports, assigning worksheets to check on student story development, assigning an exit slip, and providing deadlines and checkpoints for each major step in the story development process. I often learned a lot about a student’s progress when a student failed to meet a deadline or produce work for a key checkpoint, and this allowed me to check for any holes in my instruction.

Perhaps the two most useful formative assessments I used turned out to be the daily

writing assignments and the exit slip. Each of these provided a quick way for students to show me what they understood about the day’s lessons and activities. The exit slip provided a means for revealing areas of instruction that I needed to focus on, and in the future I plan to use exit slips on a much more frequent basis.

My summative assessments included a pre-test with primarily true/false and multiple

choice questions, a similar but more advanced post-test, and a final draft of each student’s story with accompanying materials to show progress on planning and drafting, I found the pretest to be invaluable in guiding my design for the unit overall. The gaps in understanding that this assessment revealed told me exactly what I needed to focus on in my instruction and activities, and it provided a clear benchmark for measuring student progress at the end of the unit. This was an important discovery, because prior to teaching this unit I still had a vague notion that I could effectively teach a lesson or unit without pre-assessment. This experience erased that notion from my mind completely. While my post-test was useful for directly comparing gains in test scores, the most useful information on student progress came to me in


the results of the students’ final stories. I know this was a useful assessment that was directly connected to the goals of the unit because the scores on this assessment turned out to be quite similar to each student’s score for the unit overall. This information was reported to students, parents and the school administration shortly after the completion of the unit as part of my cooperating teacher’s semester grade reports.



Writing Feature Stories: Reflection on Teaching Unit


Instruction and Learning Gains

I was pleased with the results of the unit, especially when reading my students’ final

story drafts. The students had very little experience with the unit subject and they had a short amount of time to complete a large assignment. But, in the end, every student turned in a piece of writing that she or he would not have known how to create at the beginning of the fourweek unit.

When analyzing the data related to my students’ learning, I was pleased to see that my

gut instincts about the students’ understanding of content in relation to their academic performance was in line with the results of my assessments. In short, I felt that the end results of the grades were fair and accurate. In turn, this tells me that the lessons and assessments I designed brought my students in the direction of the chosen unit goals.

Based on the learning gains revealed in this analysis, on the quality of written work

produced by my students throughout the unit, and on the anecdotal feedback I received from students about frequently being engaged with the content presented, this is a unit subject that I would certainly use again, perhaps even outside of a journalism course in a language arts class. Likewise, there are many lesson plans and activities that I found to be beneficial as well as fun and engaging. I look forward to the opportunity to teach this type of unit again, and to apply the insights I have gained from this analysis. Instruction and Differentiation

When planning this unit I used the following checklist (Figure VII.1) to gauge how

thoroughly I could apply differentiation within my lessons.



 Verbal

 Kinesthetic

 Logical/Mathematical

 Interpersonal  Intrapersonal

Learning Styles:

 Mastery (ST)

 Interpersonal (SF)

 Spatial

 Understanding (NT)

 Musical  Naturalistic

 Self-Expressive (NF)

Figure VII.1

Application of Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences can be seen throughout the unit

plans. The use of technology was of great assistance in this area, and the use of news videos and audio clips as daily writing prompts helped appeal to verbal, spatial and musical intelligences all at once. The daily writing prompts often called upon students’ intrapersonal intelligence, asking them to reflect on their personal views of current events in the news. My planning worksheets and graphic organizers appealed to students verbal, logical/mathematical and spatial intelligence by helping them organize their projects in logical and visual ways. The lessons on informative and descriptive detail required students to write from their careful observations of the physical word, which used verbal intelligence to express insights gleaned through spatial and kinesthetic intelligences. The unit as a whole appealed to interpersonal intelligence because writing a personality profile feature story requires careful observation of other people, thoughtful one-on-one interviewing practices, and personal insights about others that can translate to rich verbal observations and descriptions within a story.

Application of the Keirsey Temperament Sorter can be also seen in my accommodations

to different learning styles throughout the unit. This tells me that my unit was carefully planned, but it also shows me the broad learning benefits that journalism can have as a school subject, either on its own or in conjunction with language arts.


Students who learn well through practice and Mastery (Sensate/Thinking) benefited from

the daily practice of writing in response to news stories, as well as from planning worksheets, graphic organizers, and the repetition of the story drafting process. For students who learn most through Understanding (Intuitive/Thinking), the daily writing practice was also beneficial, as were class discussions of the larger issues related to the stories we studied and the stories students were writing. Intuitive/Thinking students likely also enjoyed the process of writing a feature story because it allowed them to synthesize information with creativity in original ways. I appealed to students who learn best through Self-Expression (Intuitive/Feeling) with daily writing prompts that allowed for students to write personal reflections as well as academic or journalistic analysis. These students also likely enjoyed group discussions in which they had room to express their feelings on relevant subjects, and the process of writing a feature story likely appealed to their need for expression much more than a typical news writing assignment would. Students who learn well through Interpersonal activities (Sensate/Feeling) benefited from the study of human interest stories, which had a compelling emotional component, as well as from group discussions, in which they were able to connect with their classmates. Interpersonal learners probably had great enjoyment in the process of writing a personality profile feature story because it allowed them to do what they do best -- to work one-on-one with a new person, to pay careful attention to another person and get to share what they learned about that person. Technology Use

From the first lesson of this unit, in which I helped students dissect Time magazine’s

feature story about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, I made it clear to students that we would frequently use and refer to web technologies in our journalistic studies. Though I hadn’t


expected it, a positive result of this was that I immediately established with students that I am familiar and comfortable with web technologies and that I respect their fascination with social media such as Facebook. From this, I quickly found that I had to be clear in discouraging students from using social media to set up interview appointments or to conduct interviews or extensive research. But, possibly because of the school’s ban on social media and cell phones in the classroom, this group of students demonstrated a solid understanding of social media boundaries they need to maintain when conducting journalistic work. With that understanding, the role of social media in journalism and world events, such as the flood of civil protests in the Middle East, has been a continuing theme in discussions with this group of students, and has created a lively, thoughtful group dynamic which shows me that this group of students are engaging with current events and journalistic principles in authentic ways, both academically and personally.

Outside of this unit, though closely related to the work of my mentor teacher and

journalism students, I was able to use web technologies to help the student newspaper staff find solutions to a major dilemma. As the school administration prepared for drastic budget cuts, my mentor teacher got word that the printing budget for the student newspaper she advises would be completely eliminated for the coming school year. Interestingly, this was not a message from the administration that the newspaper would be eliminated, but a request for my mentor teacher to become extremely resourceful and creative. With our students, we started looking for ways to turn this change into an opportunity.

It became clear that the student newspaper staff would need to find ways to generate

revenue through advertising sales, but also to cut costs by publishing online. Two years ago a pair of students started developing a website for this paper, and while it’s getting close to


being ready for launch, that process is more complicated than we would like for a short-term solution. We began looking for free online publishing options, and I found through an association of journalism teachers in Virginia. is a free (or $20/month for extra features) site that lets you upload just about any kind of document so it can turn into a publication that has the look and feel of an online magazine. My mentor teacher and I showed the site to our students and they were immediately excited by the practical possibilities it presented. Our student production manager decided to test the site by uploading files from the students’ most recent issue, and when he showed them to the team a few days later, we literally burst into applause.

We are planning to use while the newspaper transitions to online publishing,

and it’s likely we’ll continue using it even after the paper’s full website is launched. I particularly like that it still leaves room for students to practice page design while incorporating web elements such as embedded video functions (hopefully this will make for a good match with our upcoming use of The students like it because they will be able to share it in school assemblies and recruitment presentations, they will be able to link to it on their social media sites at home, their parents will be able to email it to their friends, the school will be able to link to it on its website, and the students will be able to say on their resumes and college applications that they were part of their school’s first-ever online news publication.

Since the launch at, the students’ electronic publication

received about four hundred views within a week (or a quarter of the student body). Within a week a reporter from the local newspaper, The Oregonian, found the launch interesting enough to post a brief news update about it online, which led to page views to top seven hundred


within days. In the team’s most recent news planning meeting, the group made a clear shift from thinking about producing quarterly printed publications to planning for more frequent online updates as news breaks, such as the selection of a new Glencoe principal in April, a memorial feature for a student who passed away, and a feature on a student who was recently chosen as a Metro Rose Festival Princess. Meanwhile, I am planning ways to use for my upcoming school presentations and reports, and ideas are brewing for ways to use the site for my creative writing. I am continually excited and amazed by all of the free or low-cost tools available to us on the web. Web technologies helped take my team from panic over a loss of funding into optimism and innovation. Our opportunities are nearly limitless at this point. Implications for Future Instruction and Professional Growth

Through analysis of the data reflecting my students’ learning progress during this unit, I

learned some important lessons that will ideally have impacts on my future work with these students.

First, it became very clear that it’s important to have a solid understanding of the needs

of students who have Individual Education Plans. This information was not available to me while I was planning the unit, and my students with special needs might have missed some learning opportunities as a result. Considering this, though, I am still quite pleased with one student’s overall unit score of eighty-five percent, which she earned despite learning difficulties and an illness that caused her to miss multiple class sessions. The other student’s unit score was in the ‘D’ range, but the results of his final story draft were remarkable, showing me that he does need the assistance in long-range planning that is indicated on his IEP, but that he did ultimately achieve the main goals of the unit.


I also learned that checking off students’ story drafts is a good way to keep them on

track with deadlines, but if those drafts aren’t read (instead of skimmed) by a teacher, students can still go down the wrong path in their writing process. Had I given a more careful eye to students’ story drafts, I believe I would have seen higher scores in story development. In my next unit with this group, I will have ample time to review multiple drafts from each student, and I also plan to engage the students in multiple peer editing sessions.

In line with story development, this analysis showed me that I can help prevent a difficult

writing process for students if I help them choose their news story subjects with great care. This can help save a lot of time for a student, who might not know when a story idea is leading down a difficult path, and will ultimately result in a story that is easy to write and engaging to read. In my upcoming journalism unit with these students, I am spending about two weeks helping students learn how to generate and select story topic ideas.

Throughout this unit I had challenges in establishing a tracking system for student

assignments, progress and grades because I did not have regular access to the school’s grading database as a student teacher. Looking back, I can see that I handled this challenge fairly well, but that it created some confusion when I was tracking student progress and when I was finalizing unit grades. Ultimately, the grades accurately reflected students’ achievements, but that goal was achieved less efficiently than I would have liked. To help remedy this situation for in my future work at this school, I have created an account with a free web-based gradebook called Engrade. The program is easily accessible on school computers and allows me to track assignments, due dates, extra credit, score percentages and attendance and gives me options for creating online quizzes, flashcards and seating charts. The final results of each grading period must be ultimately transferred to the school’s grading database, but I expect


that process will be much easier than attempting to transfer such data from my own makeshift spreadsheets. Development of Community

While it might not be typical to include a personal note in a professional reflection, I

know that I would be remiss if I failed to include my thoughts on an event that had a major impact on the students included in this work sample. A few weeks after I finished teaching the unit outlined here, my cooperating teacher and I received word that one of the journalism students was in intensive care at a local children’s hospital. We had not been previously aware of his illness, but it came upon him quickly and powerfully. We gathered cards and notes from students and passed them on to his family, and we expected to send on more student letters and to hear about his progress over the next several weeks. Sadly, we did not have the chance to do either of those things, and within a week, our sixteen-year-old student succumbed to his illness.

It is difficult to think about this loss, even as I write this. The student who passed away

was well known for his quiet kindness, and for sharing humor and a deep sense of respect with every person he came in contact with. He was the son of two local teachers (not within Glencoe, but in neighboring communities), and they raised him to have genuine academic curiosity and a quick mind. I made efforts this term to get Glencoe’s journalism students more interested in following current events, and this student was one of the first to take this idea to heart. During the days leading up to Egypt’s 2011 government overthrow, he frequently asked me to discuss the events in class, and on the day of the overthrow, he came to class bursting to tell me the news. He recognized that he was witnessing history, and this shows me now just how in tune he was with the world and the people around him.


The school administration was skillful in releasing the information of his death, first

sharing the news in a private meeting with teachers who had worked with him directly, and at the end of the school day over the intercom. Myself and my cooperating teacher, along with other teachers who had worked with him, had classes covered by substitutes while we took time to process the news. Once they received the news at the beginning of the day’s last period, students were also free to leave class for quiet time in the library, and counselors were available for students as well as staff. More than anything, I remember feeling numb on this day, and feeling like I wanted to be available to support my students and cooperating teacher. It wasn’t until I drove away from the school that I let myself feel it.

The four days that followed were reserved for grieving in many ways, and my lessons

were put on hold. On Tuesday my cooperating teacher spent time talking with students about their peer’s death in each of her classes. Most students seemed stunned into silence, and had very little to say. On Wednesday my journalism class met for the first time since we heard the news. At my cooperating teacher’s recommendation, we sat in a circle together and let our thoughts and tears flow. My students shared very honestly with each other, and my cooperating teacher and I took the opportunity to do so as well. I shared a piece of writing that I had put together before I heard of our friend’s passing, and it is included in this section. This day was particularly draining emotionally, but I noticed that the process left me feeling more like our class was a community, and I felt a greater appreciation for all of the students I work with, realizing that it is a privilege to be part of someone’s life during adolescence.

On Thursday I was working at another local school and learned about the time and place

of the funeral, which was open to the community. Because this information had not yet circulated to my student teaching site, I passed it on to the high school’s school secretary, who


shared the information with the entire school over the intercom and by email. I felt fortunate to have had the chance to share this information, especially on the following day when I saw many high school students at the funeral. The funeral was a difficult experience, especially for some of my students who had never attended a funeral before. When the service ended, I admired the way my cooperating teacher took time to check in with her students who attended. In the process of her doing so, a large circle of Glencoe students formed, and my cooperating teacher knew exactly how to lead them. She asked them to hold hands and she shared a few words of comfort. She allowed the students to be silent together, and to feel comfort from each other’s presence. Then she made sure that students coordinated rides together in order to return to school safely. In this moment it was very clear to me, and to the students, that my cooperating teacher is a compassionate leader in our school community. I felt very privileged to be working with her and to be entrusted to teach her students.

In preparing this work sample I have come across the records of the student who passed

away several times. I have made a conscious decision to not remove him from my class roster or grade book. He was and still is an important part of the class that I’ve been teaching. As I write this, the student newspaper staff is busy preparing an online publication dedicated to his memory. Sometimes I forget that he won’t be coming back; sometimes I forget how short his life was cut. And when I do remember, as I am now, the pain is breathtaking and the reality is difficult to accept. I learned plenty about designing lessons and evaluating student progress during this term, but this experience provided a lesson that was just as important to me: Being part of a school community means caring about a very large circle of people. The more people you care about, the greater chance you have of suffering loss. But when that loss occurs, you have a large network of support to help you through it.


I know it’s rare to experience this type of event so early in a teaching career. If I could do

anything to reverse this course of events, I would in a second. But because I can’t, I take solace in the school community I am now part of. I shared an experience with students that many of them will never forget, and that is an honor.

Following this reflection is a piece of personal writing that I shared with this class during

our first group meeting after this student’s death. Without knowing it, I wrote this piece on the day of his death, while I was still hoping for his recovery.


On William Stafford, Katy Perry and a grave teenage illness “The Way It Is” By William Stafford There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change. People wonder about what you are pursuing. You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can’t get lost. Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die; and you suffer and get old. Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding. You don’t ever let go of the thread.       Last week I was all geared up to teach a journalism lesson when an email brought me and my mentor teacher to a screeching halt. We learned that one of our students landed in intensive care over the weekend for an infection that sneaked up on him quietly and powerfully. Even in the last class we held before he went to the hospital, I was marveling at his positive attitude and academic performance. My students put together a stack of get-well cards for their friend and I was fortunate to meet his family when I delivered the cards at the hospital. His mother told me that they had seen small improvements in his condition, but that they were still taking things minute by minute. These are scary times. I think about this student often — every time another student asks how he’s doing, every time I come across one of his assignments, or sometimes when my mind drifts. We don’t know what will happen to him, and it is hard to accept that he might not have the future we imagined (I was convinced he would at least become a high school news editor, but likely much, much more). It’s even harder to tell his classmates that we’re not always hopeful. During my 45-minute commute home from the high school, I was thinking about all this when Katy Perry’s “Firework” song came on the radio. Usually, I’m irritated by this song and its ubiquity on the radio waves. But on this day it reminded me of the high school assembly I’d seen where a student was playing this song on guitar and another was singing its chorus, his voice completely earnest. The school auditorium was filled with at least half of the student body, and the entire crowd erupted into song, supporting their friends on the stage. I know that if they thought their friend in the ICU could hear them, 99

they would sing this song again for him.“Do you ever feel already buried deep, six feet under scream, but no one seems to hear a thing … Baby, you’re a firework. Come on show ‘em what you’re worth…” So much of a high school teacher’s work involves wrangling teenagers’ overpowering social tendencies. Developmentally, teens can’t help but see the world through a social lens — to them friendship is often more important than anything else. This can be irritating for a teacher who has an academic agenda to follow, or for a parent who is trying to instill values of discipline. But when I think about my students’ concern for their friend in the hospital, and when I think about hundreds of teenagers bursting into song to support a friend singing on stage, their compulsion to friendship strikes me as remarkable, even miraculous. Perhaps this is why people reflect so often on their teenage years — for many people, they are a time when friendship is more important than anything else. And when friendships are rich, life is rich. Already I get funny looks from people when I tell them that I’m choosing to teach high school as a career. I always tell them that I just like teenagers, but I haven’t figured out why. But now I can be clear on at least one of the reasons — I enjoy being in a work environment where friendship and community are a top priority to most of the people in the building. I appreciate a teenager’s compulsion toward friendship.



Writing Feature Stories: Attention to Literacy


Attention to Literacy

Because the primary goal of this unit was for students to produce a piece of polished

writing, attention to literacy is evident in my unit goals, which cover nine identified Oregon state reading standards. (See Figure VIII.1.) In my lesson plans, attention to literacy is evident in activities that require students to read and respond to texts independently, to listen to a variety of journalistic texts, to synthesize information researched in interviews and online, to listen carefully in group discussions and one-on-one interviews. The story drafting process required students to generate relevant questions that could be researched, to use comprehension strategies such as self-correcting, summarizing, generating and responding to essential questions, and comparing information from multiple sources. Their final stories were graded for written mechanics and story development, which demonstrate overall understanding of English grammar and comprehension of researched information, respectively. Figure VIII.1 EL.HS.RE.01 Read at an independent and instructional reading level appropriate to grade level. EL.HS.RE.02 Listen to, read, and understand a wide variety of informational and narrative text, including classic and contemporary literature, poetry, magazines, newspapers, reference materials, and online information. EL.HS.RE.03 Make connections to text, within text, and among texts across the subject areas. EL.HS.RE.04 Demonstrate listening comprehension of more complex text through class and/or small group interpretive discussions across the subject areas. EL.HS.RE.06 Understand and draw upon a variety of comprehension strategies as needed-rereading, self-correcting, summarizing, class and group discussions, generating and responding to essential questions, making predictions, and comparing information from several sources. EL.HS.RE.11 Identify and use the literal and figurative meanings of words and phrases. EL.HS.RE.19 Identify and/or summarize sequence of events, main ideas, facts, supporting details, and opinions in informational and practical selections. EL.HS.RE.25 Infer the main idea when it is not explicitly stated, and support with evidence from the text. EL.HS.RE.33 Generate relevant questions about readings on issues that can be researched.


Journalism Work Sample: Writing Feature Stories  

Winter 2011 high school classroom work sample completed for Portland State University's Graduate Teacher Education Program

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